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Fairfax Takes First Step Toward Leaf Blower Restrictions

How do you think the town should restrict leaf blowers? Ban them? Or limit the hours they are permitted? Tell us in the comments!

 

It’s now up to the Fairfax Planning Commission to decide how the town should regulate leaf blowers.

The Fairfax Town Council unanimously agreed last week to move forward with a leaf blower ordinance, but left the guidelines open. For example, the ordinance could just ban gas leaf blowers or restrict other power equipment.

Fairfax resident Douglas Green delivered a petition of more than 42 hand-written pages with more than 1,000 signatures to the council in October 2012.

He told Patch his main opposition to the leaf blowers is the pollution they cause by kicking up dust and other materials.

“It’s horrendous for those with asthmatics,” he told the council at its Jan. 10 meeting. Green has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a kind of lung disease. 

Green, who lives in the Bennett House and uses a wheelchair, decided to do something about leaf blowers after a maintenance worker blew a leaf blower right at Green when he was rushing to his car to roll up his windows before dust was blown inside.

He also has an issue with how noisy the leaf blowers are, he said. He hears them regularly on Wednesday mornings at the Bennett House, a low-income apartment building for seniors. 

All of the council members appeared supportive of some sort of restriction when the topic was discussed at a Dec. 5 council meeting.

Last week, the council was similarly varying in opinion about the structure of the ordinance.

Councilman Larry Bragman said the town might need to be more creative. “Noise disturbance has become a hot-button issue,” he said, pointing to recent neighbor noise disputes involving the Bolinas Road 7-Eleven or neighbors unhappy with noise early-morning delivery trucks at Good Earth. “We do have a noise ordinance. Maybe we should really be looking at revising the noise ordinance.”

Mayor John Reed added that part of the issue is civility. “Being conscious of each other in the community is important. You can’t really pass an ordinance saying that.” 

In December, the council members discussed elements they liked in the town of Ross’s ordinance, which restricts unnecessary noise and limits the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers to the hours of 9 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

In San Anselmo, someone can only use a motorized leaf blower from 1 to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays for no longer than thirty minutes at a time per property.

Other Marin towns with leaf blower regulations include Mill Valley, Tiburon, Belvedere and San Rafael. 

Supervisor Katie Rice has told the Marin Independent Journal that she is considering an ordinance at the county level. 

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ACG January 15, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Leave blower Laws are anti-immigrant/dayworker laws. They ban or restrict a single tool that immigrants use in gardening and landscaping work. They don't ban Chainsaws, Lawnmowers or Weed Wackers which are louder and as pollutant. We already have a noise ordnance and time restrictions. Why do we need one for one specific tool? Ban them all or leave it as it stands. Don't jump on the Anti-Immigrant/Dayworker bandwagon to be like Ross and San Anselmo.
Lenore Alford January 15, 2013 at 03:01 PM
I totally agree the leaf blowers should be banned. They are incredibly noisy and obnoxious tools that serve no useful purpose. Any worker who uses them could attain the same result with a broom, which is silent and just as effective. The noise pollution created by leaf blowers is unacceptable. This ban is in place in Orinda, for one example, and should be here as well.
Debbie Burris January 15, 2013 at 03:11 PM
This is PIECE OF EQUIPMENT THAT IS NEEDED TO MAKE THE APPEARANCE OF ONES PROPERTY LOOK POLISHED. USING THIS TOOL HELPS TO ELIMINATE THE BACK BREAKING RAKING DONE BY SOME OF OUR OLDER PEOPLE. Please WE NEED TO MAKE THEIR LIVES EASIER IF WE CAN. Why put a target on one tool, when their are many that we use, to in prove the looks of our property. Don't ban our leaf blowers. Ty Concerned citizen.
Jeff Sheppard January 15, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Coming back to Larkspur after 25 years, leaf blowers have turned this once quiet neighborhood into a construction site. Winter has become the only break. Sensible restrictions, such as those in San Anselmo, are a necessary compromise.
DMiller January 15, 2013 at 05:03 PM
ACG: I'm sure you don't mean to be racist (OK, possibly let's just say you're uninformed): I'm a 63 yr old very white female making a living as a gardener, and I use an electric (quieter than the gas, carbon producing ones) leaf blower. Lenore: you obviously don't garden. A broom is ineffective to remove leaves on the ground between plants! Jeff: no one enforces San Anselmo's ban, unless one turns in one's neighbor. To restrict use to limited days doesn't work and isn't fair--no other noise producing tool use is limited to certain days. I agree with you all: blowers are not the only tools that produce irritating noise--my neighbors' bandsaws certainly are irritating, especially on weekends. I would hope widespread blower bans would rather get the attention of manufacturers or inventors: most of the issues with blowers would disappear if we could buy QUIET ones. As far as dust: electric ones are powerful enough for cleaning up leaves--no need to use the higher powered gas ones--EXCEPT they don't have an unwieldy cord. I am guessing that fact, more than the power, is why most professional Gardeners use a cordless gas blower. Final Question: It takes 2-3 times longer to rake than use a blower. Will you clients out there be willing to pay for that quieter service??
Chris O January 15, 2013 at 05:03 PM
When leafblowers are outlawed only outlaws will use leafblowers. Let's see if you busybodies can locate Andy and Barney before I finish cleaning out my garage. Bring it on.
ACG January 15, 2013 at 06:01 PM
Immigrants and Day Labors can be white too.... I did not bring race into the conversation you did. Also they might ban all leaf blowers including electric ones.
Wesley January 15, 2013 at 08:31 PM
The San Anselmo ordinance is ridiculous as every gardener in the city of San Anselmo has 4 hours Mon, Thur, and Sat to get their job done if leaf blowing is involved. If you are a homeowner and work, you have Saturday afternoon. I use an electric blower and try to buy the quietest model. I do try to follow hours but you don't only work on projects only Mon, Thur, or Sat.
Mark Fiore January 15, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Congrats to the Fairfax Town Council for taking a stand and particular thanks to Douglas Green for caring enough to make the rounds with that petition. You're my new hero, Mr. Green! Leaf-blowers are ridiculous and unnecessary. I bet there were some beautiful gardens here before their invention. Life will go on after the ban.
Okoyam January 16, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Leaf blowers are extraordinarily loud, polluting, and completely unnecessary. To say you can't garden without one is a ridiculous assertion. Most yards in SA/ FX are quite small and in very close proximity to neighboring properties. Weed whackers and saws, unlike leaf blowers, are not typically utilized on a regular, ongoing schedule.
Clintonista80 January 16, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Challenge accepted... we're happy to report you!
Clintonista80 January 16, 2013 at 05:53 PM
The only thing I can agree with you on, is that blower objections would disappear if they were quiet. The manufacturers who make 65 decibel blowers rarely sell any, and they're anything but quiet. Let the leaves mulch into soil nutrients for the plants. That you choose to make a living using a blower as some sort of indispensable tool, which it is not, is not our problem. We have a right to resonable quiet in our neighborhoods, and blowers destroy peace and relaxation. A most anitisocial practice!
John Ferguson January 18, 2013 at 12:07 AM
You call 'em weeds, I call 'em low maintenance flower beds. Gardening is just another misguided way to try to make the natural landscape more like our weird fetishist vision of a dystopian future. Let it grow..
Karen Mickleson January 18, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Such self righteousness by the pro-ban group. I'd like to see a breakdown by age & rental vs owner status of those for a total ban. I put up with neighbors who encourage screaming by their kids during play and it's as aggravating as blower, saw, whacker noise (and goes on much longer most days of the week) but I just figure it's part of 'being in a community' where we have to tolerate each other. Let's look for a mature compromise.
Stacey January 18, 2013 at 11:24 PM
All this arguing doesn't address the facts that 1) leaf blowers aggravate the preexisting respiratory conditions of people who live nearby; and 2) regular maintenance conducted with noisy non-human-powered machines disrupts the peaceful enjoyment of people's homes. We all understand that living where we do means the occasional large-scale pruning jobs of trees encroaching on the fire zones of houses is necessary. This does not mean blowers, hedgers, weeders, etc fall into that same category of necessary large-scale maintenance. Those machines are part of regular small-scale maintenance that needs to be done without disruption to the peaceful enjoyment of one's neighbors' homes. Yes, leaf blowers need to be banned. Yes, leaf blowers are one of a category of machines that infringe on the rights of people's peaceful enjoyment of their homes. Banning leaf blowers is a good thing and should be embraced by this lovely town that is so invested in the healthful quality of life of its residents.
Paul Whiting February 27, 2014 at 01:59 PM
I would love to see blowers absolutely banned.I work from home and it's constant noise .I live in SA and was excited about the ordnance but nobody seems to take any notice of it!I also don't see peoples obsession with clearing every bit of foliage from their "property"!The noise is truly grating and yes, pay your gardner a little more and ask them to rake, think of your neighbors!

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