Brookline Blower Update

townmeeting
Richard Nangle speaks in support of Article 10, as Faith Michaels and opponents prepare to speak at Nov 18th meeting. (Photo: Jenna Fisher, via Twitter)

Update to “Brookline’s Blower Ban: A Contractor Weighs In

On November 18, 2015, the Brookline Town Meeting declined to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, with broad recognition that the proposed ban would unfairly target contractors, private homeowners, and small institutions. (The ban was amended to exempt Town crews and non-residential properties over 5 acres, most notably the Country Club.)

Town Meeting voted 143 in favor, 57 opposed and with 2 abstentions to refer the question of whether to tighten restrictions on leaf blowers to a moderators committee.

“We need a policy that would make the rules easier to understand and easier to enforce,” said Town Meeting member Chuck Swartz of Precinct 9, one of almost a dozen people to speak on leaf blowers. “We can find something that will work for all of us here in Brookline.” (Jenna Fisher, BrooklineTAB)

Opponents of Article 10 included landscape contractors, elderly residents, and residents who felt like the blower issue was a distraction from more significant issues facing the Town. Faith Michaels, a representative of the green-industry group BrooklineLeaves.org, offered to lead an effort to educate contractors, workers, and residents about reducing the impact of blower use. Several speakers asked the Town to lead by example, rather than exempting itself.

The Advisory Committee recommended referral, noting that they had already identified 8 steps that could be taken by the Town immediately to improve application and enforcement of the current blower restrictions:

  1. Implement a registration system for all landscape contractors operating in Brookline.
  2. Improve public education about the existing restrictions on the use of leaf blowers and other lawn care equipment by residents and contractors.
  3. Edit Article 8.31 of the Bylaws to improve its readability, to clarify whom and what it applies to, and to include a reference to Article 8.15 of the Bylaws.
  4. Edit Article 8.15.6(f) of the Bylaws to include a reference to Article 8.31.
  5. Encourage the police department to maintain its policy of proactive enforcement of November 17, 2015 Special Town Meeting 10-12 Articles 8.15 and 8.31 of the Town’s Bylaws.
  6. Encourage the police department to feel empowered to issue citations for violations of Articles 8.15 and 8.31 of the Town’s Bylaws when it is appropriate. The objective of enforcement should be to control noise, and the department and its officers should feel comfortable using both warnings and citations to achieve this goal.
  7. Encourage the Department of Public Works to continue purchasing replacement equipment that complies with the decibel levels set out in Article 8.15.
  8. Encourage the Parks and Open Space Division of the Department of Public Works to develop a formal policy that identifies ways to minimize the use of leaf blowers, when it is practical.

BrooklineLeaves.org has a wealth of scientific information on the noise, health, and economic impact of bower use, as well as steps that contractors and homeowners can take to make Brookline a more pleasant place to live and work. To learn more about the issues on both sides of the blower debate, see Reports of the Selectmen and Advisory Committee (pp 69-86).