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Something's blowing in Newton, and it isn't the wind

Posted by Ralph Ranalli September 17, 2007 04:03 PM

(Globe staff photo by Pat Greenhouse)


Elm and maple trees rustled in the breeze on Highland Avenue in West Newton one afternoon last week. Spacious homes cast long shadows across carefully manicured lawns. Gardens brimmed with freshly planted asters.

And the shrill whine of leaf blowers filled the air.

"I hate them," said Lynne Bail, shouting over the noise made by a crew cleaning her neighbor's yard. "They go all day long. It really spoils the neighborhood and the peace and quiet we used to have."

It is a quintessential suburban problem. In the quest for a flawless yard, leaf blowers have become a modern necessity to get a job done efficiently. But with more homeowners and landscapers using them from spring to fall, critics say they have become an ear-shattering nuisance, robbing neighborhoods of cherished quiet. Now, a Newton alderman wants to outlaw gas-powered leaf blowers, joining Cambridge, Lincoln, and other communities around Boston that are considering leaf blower restrictions, Globe West staff writer Megan Woolhouse reports.

Under the law, it would be "unlawful for any person, including a City employee, to operate any portable gasoline-powered leaf blower within the City limits." The ban would take effect in January 2009. Excluded are electric leaf blowers, which have less power than gas leaf blowers and run more quietly. Police, who would be responsible for enforcing the proposed ordinance, could issue warnings and fines of up to $300 to violators.

Newton Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan said he proposed the ban after hearing complaints from residents annoyed by the noise, dust, and exhaust created by the blowers. A lawyer who occasionally works from home, he said the coming and going of landscaping crews using leaf blowers seems to leave a constant cloud of dust, which aggravates his wife's asthma and covers their house and car.

How does he maintain his own yard?

"I have children," he said.

Read more about the dust-up over leafblowers in Newton in the online edition of today's City & Region section and listen to a bonus audio report filed by Meg Woolhouse.

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