Gas-powered leaf blowers will be banned in Brookline during the summer and winter months after Town Meeting voted Wednesday night to restrict the “eleventh plague, inadvertently left out of the Haggadah,” as Town Meeting Member Harry Friedman phrased it.
The ban will not apply to the town's park and street maintenance, nor to those landowners who have more than five acres to tend.
“Leaf blowers are fine, during spring and fall, when there are leaves on the ground,” said Andrew Fischer, author of the legislation. But otherwise, he and other proponents claimed, the blowers were a “noise nuisance,” emitting greenhouse gases, blowing up tiny particles of dust, dirt, dog droppings and more when a rake or broom could do the job with less impact on residents and passers-by.
Opponents proposed a resolution instead, saying that town officials have already started to increase enforcement of the noise bylaw for leaf blowers, which bans machines that emit more than 67 decibels.
“There needs to be a concerted educational effort around the noise bylaw and more of a penalty for violating it,” said Carla Benka of the Advisory Committee. Her committee supported the resolution rather than the seasonal ban because the legislation excluded the town and would add costs to property owners.
Robert Basile, a town meeting member, claimed that the legislation would “shabbify” Brookline because it would be too difficult for the elderly and others to clear up litter and those leaves that fall in the winter and summer months—creating hazards for pedestrians.
But Janet Gilman said that in 1978, when everyone had to rake or sweep because leaf blowers had not been invented, "I was not aware of Brookline 'shabbification.'"
And Town Meeting Member Carol Caro said the noise bylaw hadn't stopped blowers all summer, and said that Police Chief Daniel O'Leary told her a seasonal ban was easier to enforce than the current noise bylaw.
If the Attorney General does not strike down the ban, it will take effect by May 15 and extend to Sept. 15. Gas leaf-blowers can then be used until Dec. 15. Violators can be fined between $50-200.