After two hours of debate and public comment, the majority of the Common Council agreed the city should probably ban gas-powered leaf blowers year-round. They just aren’t ready to do so yet. 

For now, gas-powered leaf blowers will be banned from June 1 to Oct 15 and from Dec 15 to April 1, effective in 2024. Electric leaf blowers will be prohibited during those months unless they are used on impervious surfaces like patios.

The Common Council also approved language that would delay implementing a year-round ban until beginning in 2027 and agreed to reconsider in 2026 whether the prohibition should go into effect.

“The (ordinance) committee tried to balance the existing technology, with the anticipated future improvements, city and business need to fiscally plan for the future and for financial necessities, and human environmental safety concern,” said Lisa Shanahan, Common Council member representing District E and chair of the Ordinance Committee.

With 8 yeses, 3 nos, and 1 abstention, the council approved a leaf blower ordinance that includes the language to ban gas-powered leaf blowers year-round in the city by 2028; however, the Common Council must revisit this ordinance to vote on whether to keep the timeline for the ban.

Dubbed the “Camacho amendment” after Common Council member At-Large Ed Camacho, the provision requires the city to reevaluate the leaf blower technology and the cost burden switching to electric by Sept 1, 2026. This provision was added in response to overwhelming concerns raised in public comments during an ordinance meeting in July.

“It requires us to revisit this ordinance again to speak again with the city’s DPW and parks and rec departments, to speak again with landscaping companies, to verify that electric leaf blowing technology has advanced to where it needs to be for us to reasonably transition to electric and to these batteries in the outlined time period,” Shanahan explained.

Currently, the ordinance outlines a timeline for a gas leaf blower ban that requires the switch to electric leaf blowers for all properties 2 acres or smaller by Jan 1, 2027, and for properties larger than 2 acres by Jan 1, 2028.

However, per the Camacho amendment, this timeline will be reassessed in 2026, at which time the ban could be changed or eliminated. So, while the gas-power leaf blower ban language was included in the Common Council’s approval of the ordinance, whether or not Norwalk will have a year-round ban has not been decided yet.

“If we vote and support this ordinance, no one can walk out of here and say we banned leaf blowers tonight,” said Josh Goldstein, Common Council member At-Large.

The sections of the ordinance that will take effect in 2024 are restrictions on when leaf blowers can be used to mitigate noise in the community. From June 1 to Oct 15 and Dec. 15 to April 1, leaf blowers are prohibited on lawns, gardens, and parks, but electric blowers can be used on impervious surfaces like patios, according to the ordinance.

Additionally, the ordinance limits the hours leaf blowers can be used to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays and federal holidays.

The ordinance also requires companies hired by the city of Norwalk to use OSHA-approved safety equipment to protect employees’ respiratory system and hearing.

Several Common Council members cited the addition of the Camacho Amendment as the reason they are supporting the leaf blower ordinance.

“What is clear is that this ordinance as much as anything is aspirational,” said Camacho, who did not run for reelection. “We are really sending a signal to not only the landscaping community but also to homeowners and the people and companies that produce this technology that change is coming and we are trying to encourage that change as quickly as possible.”

Bryan Meek, Common Council member representing District D, said the ordinance “seems like a lot of government overreach.”

Original article

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