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Mixed reaction to proposal to limit use of leaf blowers in Greenport

A proposal to limit the times when gas powered leaf blowers can be used in Greenport Village got a mixed reaction Thursday night during a public hearing.

Those in favor cited noise and health reasons, while those opposed said it would increase the time and cost for yard cleanups, and could set a precedent leading to similar restrictions in the village.

The proposed ban was first suggested at an October meeting of the Village board, where resident Ken Ludacer presented the board with a petition signed by more than 100 people who favored putting restrictions on leaf blowers.

While his petition had called for a ban on leaf blowers, the proposal heard Thursday only restricts their use to certain times.

The proposal limits the times when internal-combustion leaf blowers can be used to weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and Sundays and holidays between noon and 4 p.m.

In addition, the proposal would limit the operation of leaf blowers to the time between March 15 and April 30, and between Oct. 15 and Dec. 15.

“Some people think it’s trivial or unimportant or maybe elitist,” Mr. Ludacer said Thursday. “And I wasn’t sure if the board was going to think likewise.”

He said studies have cited the environmental and safety hazards of gas powered leaf blowers.

“This proposal, I think, is a start,” Mr. Ludacer said. “Most people that signed the petition were looking for a complete ban on gas powered leaf blowers.”

Resident Randy Wade had previously presented the board with information on health impacts of leaf blowers, such as a Mount Sinai School of Medicine study that found that gas powered leaf blowers pose multiple health threats, including spreading airborne particles, which can lead to asthma and other respiratory diseases.

“Thank you so much for taking this seriously,” she said Thursday night. “I fully support the proposed regulations.”

Resident Chatty Allen said that if leaf blowers are banned, it could lead to calls for bans on other things that make noise, like diesel trucks and car radios.

“There are people who use leaf blowers for a living, and gas powered leaf blowers are what they need to keep their business going,” she said. “Electric leaf blowers are not reliable.”

Taking away gas powered leaf blowers means companies will have to hire more people to do the job in the same amount of time, she said.

“If you pass this position you’re opening a Pandora’s box,” resident Raymond Chute wrote in a letter to the board, saying it could lead to calls for banning things like motorcycles and music.

“Disregard this petition and move on to important issues,” he wrote.

Tina Finne of Greenport also wrote a letter opposing the time restrictions.

“It’s been our experience that the residents of this village are mostly considerate of each other already,” she wrote. “To add another law and more rules to fine our citizens with … would be another ‘gotcha scheme’ to pit neighbors against one another.”

“The complete ban would be very nice,” resident Selina Truelove said. “My greatest concern is the dust the blower spread … I’m very scare of what’s blowing around with the leaves and the grass.”

Jennifer Delvaglio of Cutchogue said the local economy depends on small business owners and putting time restrictions on leaf blowers will increase maintenance costs and double or even triple the amount of time it takes to do lawn jobs.

Rob DeLuca, a Greenport High School senior, said he was tasked with a work-study program by the Group for the East End involving researching the effects of leaf blower exhaust.

“My research has found a significant amount of traumatic effects caused primarily  by the effects of two-stroke [gas powered] leaf blowers,” he said.

He quoted a 2011 study by Edmunds, the car review company, which said that a two-stroke leaf blower running for 30 minutes of yard work will be comparable to driving a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck from northern Texas to Anchorage Alaska in terms of the hydrocarbon emissions produced.

There are electric alternative-type leaf blowers that produce no emissions and almost no noise, he said.

Rachel Bosworth of Greenport read a letter from the American Green Zone Alliance which recommends the use of new battery/electric leaf blowers, which produce half the noise that two-stroke engines do, and have lithium ion batteries.

The AGZA, which worked  on leaf blower issues throughout the country, including on the South Fork, said that “heavy-handed bans are even heavier to the laborers who typically labor for low wages with little job leverage.”

The board closed the hearing and will discuss it at its next work session on Jan. 18, Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said.

The public hearing notice on the village website had inadvertently included lawn mowers in the restrictions, according to Mr. Hubbard, who said the village is not proposing to restrict lawn mowers. The hearing notice had been corrected prior to Thursday’s meeting.

Photo caption: Jim Greenfield speaks at a well-attended public hearing on leaf blower restrictions during Thursday’s Greenport Village board meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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