For the special Fall Town Meeting, Warrant Article 9 proposes to limit leaf blower use to a certain date range, from March 15 to May 15 for spring clean-up and from Sept 15 to Nov 15 for the fall. Because of the scale of town operations, the Town would be exempt from this ban, leaving it only to residents and contractors working at homes. The Board did not take a vote on the article last night.
The proponent, Andrew Fischer, says he proposed it because "I don’t think the noise bylaw has made any appreciable difference in the leaf blower problem."
The noise produced by these machines is the big problem, although he notes that it would also be a "baby step" toward a greener Brookline, by reducing the carbon emissions and particulate stirred up by the lawn equipment. He also noted that the sound levels may be an OSHA violation.
Carol Caro, a Town Meeting Member for Precinct 8, observed that in her neighborhood, all of the homes have gardeners which use leaf blowers 12 months of the year. When she's spoken to the gardeners, none of them had heard about the noise bylaw passed in 2008. She added that a police representative said he had only sent letters to 35 lawn care companies he was knew.
“The information on the law that we passed has never been promligated,” Caro added.
Caro is in support of the article.
Fischer mentioned that he had asked his gardener not to use a leaf blower on his yard and to charge him if it added to the workload, then added that his bill has not increased. He also described a contest where leaf blowers were pitted against more traditional forms of lawn clean-up, and judges found that a grandmother with a rake did a faster and more efficient job than the leaf blowers.
Costs for the town would go up if forced to limit leaf blower use. Selectwoman Nancy Daly pointed out that a study by Erin Gallentine had found that it would be considerably more expensive for the Department of Public Works (DPW) to avoid leaf blower use.
"I'm not sure how I feel in terms of the argument. I think the exemption for the town makes sense, but we can’t say we’re setting an example for the town, and then exempt the town," commented Selectwoman Jesse Mermell.
Town Meeting Member Robert Basile feels that this exemption is, "One of the worst forms of discrimination I have heard of in 50 years working in the town of Brookline. Why shouldn’t commercial area owners and commercial operators not have the same rights as the DPW?"
Basile added that the months selected are also "unreasonable and senseless," observing that there are a few varieties of tree that drop their leaves well outside the dates outlined.
Mermell added that, "if I had a lawn, I’d make the same choice as you [Fischer] did, and not have a leafblower used on it. I don’t think we need to regulate it.”
The Advisory Committee voted down this article with one abstention.
“When people don’t have options,” Fred Lebow, Advisory Committee member, warned, “it discourages people from doing the right things.”
The Board did not take a vote on this article at the meeting, and will vote on it at a later meeting.