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Letters Regarding Gas Leaf Blowers

letter to the editorThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Anne Hintermeister:

To Mayor Samwick and the Trustees:
Asking Scarsdale’s Conservation Advisory Council to study the use of gas leaf blowers and scheduling a Board Work Session on January 12, 2021 to consider the CAC’s findings and recommendations were important steps towards improving quality of life and health in our community.

The CAC report offers the Board practical, reasonable, and enforceable options for amending the Village Code that are supported by recent scientific studies further documenting the harmful effects of gas leaf blower noise and emissions and by a comprehensive review of current electric leaf blower technology.

The CAC’s technology review shows that electric blowers are adequate and cost-effective for use by commercial landscapers to remove leaves, clippings and other debris other than during the Fall leaf season. Our Village Code has banned gas blowers from June 1 to September 30 since 1994. Landscapers operating in Scarsdale already own and use electric blowers and everyone’s lawns look great. Now is the time to extend the electric-only rule to the Spring. There is no longer a technology or cost argument to justify exposing residents to gas blower noise and emissions in the Spring.

The CAC found that while it was “cost prohibitive” for commercial landscapers to remove leaves in the Fall with electric blowers, it recommended in Option One that the Board mitigate the gas blowers’ harmful effects on residents by designating three electric-only days per week during the three-month leaf season. On the remaining four days, landscapers can continue to start at 8 AM, use multiple gas blowers at the same time and blow without limit on small lots in our densely populated neighborhoods. But at least residents would know that they have three days, including weekends, to enjoy their homes and community free of harmful noise and emissions.

The CAC’s Option One compromise is more than fair to the landscapers who operate in Scarsdale and to the residents who employ them. The harm caused by gas blower noise pollution and emissions documented in the CAC report would easily justify a total ban. I strongly urge the Board to schedule a hearing on a resolution amending the Village Code to implement Option One in time to protect residents this Spring.

Anne Hintermeister
Chase Road

This letter was written by Susan Douglass:

Dear Mayor Samwick and Trustees:
As a resident of Scarsdale for over three decades, who works from home in Fox Meadow and who is also frequently out walking in many of Scarsdale’s other neighborhoods, I can attest to the hugely negative impact of gas-powered leaf blowers. The ear-splitting noise and toxic fumes are detrimental to everyone’s health. Fortunately, there are other solutions available to clear residents’ properties of leaves.

I strongly urge the Board of Trustees to adopt “Option 1” set forth in the December 2020 Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council (“CAC”) report, “Mitigating the Health, Environment, and Quality of Life Impacts of Gas Leaf Blowers.”

The CAC’s findings that “[g]as leaf blowers pollute the air, negatively impact landscapers’ health, and have excessive noise levels that negatively impact the quality of life for residents …” cannot be disputed. The only open issue is what to do about this detrimental, man-made, and avoidable situation. Do we sacrifice our well-being for the convenience of the landscaping industry, or do we require the landscaping industry to take steps to protect their customers, their own workers, and the well-being of the surrounding neighbors?

The current regulations in Scarsdale prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 to September 30; at other times, they may be used Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on the weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The regulations exempt golf courses, municipal properties, and schools from these use restrictions, and gas blowers may also be used during emergencies.

In my view, the CAC’s proposals, while helpful, do not go far enough; the Board should adopt “Option 1” as a minimum, incremental step. This option proposes banning the use of gas leaf blowers Saturday through Monday, and extends the ban from January. Thus, gas-powered leaf blowers could be used Tuesday through Friday, from October 1 through December 31 – the main leaf season. Electric leaf blowers, which are non-polluting and quieter, could be used at any time of the day throughout the year.

There is a perception that gas-powered leaf blowers are “necessary” to maintain residents’ yards, particularly those with large properties, and that the electric leaf blowers lack the power and the battery capacity to allow professional landscapers to do the job adequately. This would be the case if landscapers try to clear all of the leaves by blowing them to curbside (where they create hazardous conditions for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists). However, if landscapers changed their practice to primarily do in-place leaf mulch-mowing, crumbling the leaves into tiny pieces that enrich the soil, there would be a relatively small amount of leaves remaining to bag and remove; this much smaller amount could be handled with the existing technology in electric leaf blowers. This change in practice could likely be accommodated with relatively little additional expense or effort, according to a professional landscaper who testified at the hearing that resulted in the Village of Larchmont banning gas-powered leaf blowers altogether starting in January 2022, one year from now (the hearing can be accessed here: May 18, 2020, with the landscaper’s comments at 30.00).

As a general matter, professional landscapers appear to be resistant to change. However, we can promote the upkeep of the appearance of our residents’ properties while we also protect and enhance the quality of life for our residents. These are not mutually exclusive outcomes. Please “follow the science” and mitigate the damage caused by gas-powered leaf blowers.

I urge the Board to adopt “Option 1” set forth in the December 2020 CAC report as soon as possible, as it is the absolute minimum that should be done to address this issue. I am also asking the Board to revisit this issue in the near future, with the goal of adopting a complete ban on the use of gas-powered blowers by January 2022, as our neighbors in Larchmont have done.

Susan Douglass
59 Crane Road

This letter is from CAC Chair Darlene LeFrancois Haber

Dear Mayor Samwick and Board of Trustees,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my letter of November 9, 2020 (also published in the Scarsdale Inquirer on November 13): "Leave the Leaves for the Health of our Environment and our Community: Let’s Stop Being Part of the Problem" concerning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers and leaf vacuuming practices within the village.

Your suggestion of a deeper investigation and report on the use and regulation of leaf blowers in Scarsdale by the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) seems to have come to fruition in the form of their December 2020 report: Mitigating the Health, Environmental, and Quality of Life Impacts of Gas Leaf Blowers. I find this report to be a well-researched and clear delineation of the many issues at hand concerning the use of leaf blowers in our village and urge you to adopt recommendation “option 1,” which would effectively extend the current gas leaf blower regulation to begin in January rather than June, and during fall leaf season would limit use to Tuesday through Friday.

In addition, I also urge you to adopt an immediate interim resolution which would bar the use of any gas-powered leaf blowers within 100 feet of a neighboring property and ban the use of push-behind or multiple blowers on properties less than half an acre in size. There is excellent precedent for these types of rulings within our neighboring communities, with both Bedford and Irvington having legislation that specifically restricts gas blower use in more densely populated neighborhoods. Finally, I suggest the Board enact a complete gas blower ban effective January 2022, akin to what our neighboring community of Larchmont has put into place.

In summary, I urge the Board to immediately adopt “option 1” set forth in the December 2020 CAC report, in addition to additional regulations to protect residents and landscapers working in our more densely populated neighborhoods as set forth above. I am also requesting that the Board go even further by enacting a complete gas blower ban for our village effective January 1, 2022.

Sincerely,
Darlene LeFrancois Haber M.D.

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