Submitted by Jonathan Perloe, Cos Cob
At tonight’s RTM meeting, members should vote “no” on the motion to refer Item 17, the noise ordinance with a seasonal limitation on use of gas-powered leaf blowers (GPLB), to a special committee. It will further delay, very possibly by another year, an extremely popular measure among Greenwich residents to reduce their incessant din and dangerous emissions. GPLBs are not necessary during summer months, or for that matter, at all.
Right now, 2 in 3 Americans say they are always or often “exhausted” when thinking about politics. For many, that translates into a general distrust about government being able to get things done for the good of its citizens, and an overall disengagement in civic activities.
The motion to further study the proposed ordinance may be well-intentioned, but it’s a good example of why citizens believe government is ineffective.
It delays the decision about a matter that has been before the RTM since October of last year, one that has the overwhelming support of Greenwich residents. It came to the RTM after nearly two years of back and forth with the Greenwich Health Department, whose board took the cynical and secret move to repeal the Town’s noise ordinance just days before the December, 2023 RTM meeting to prevent the ordinance from passing.
Sending the ordinance to a special committee creates more delay with no assurance of simplifying the process, while introducing a risk of even further delay should the February 16 deadline for the March RTM meeting agenda not be met. Committees and districts will still be able introduce amendments to weaken a popular measure that will reduce noise and dangerous emissions.
Since it was first brought forward in October, 2023, the RTM has had ample opportunity to study the proposed ordinance to restrict GPLBs during the summer season. Since then, Quiet Yards Greenwich has made concessions: it delayed the seasonal start date and delayed fines until the second year of implementation. Nothing else material about the proposed ordinance has changed, except for the number of meetings during which the topic has been discussed.
According to Quiet Yards Greenwich, there have already been 48 RTM district, committee, and full meetings on this ordinance, one that 89 percent of Greenwich residents sending letters to the RTM have said they want.
The case for why this ordinance should be approved now, without further delay, is solid. As presented in great detail in the Quiet Yards Greenwich report, the deleterious impacts on health, the environment and our quality of life from gas-powered leaf blowers are substantial and supported by a long-standing, large body of evidence.
An op-ed in The New York Times noted that, “the gasoline-powered leaf blower exists in a category of environmental hell all its own, spewing pollutants…into the atmosphere at a literally breathtaking rate.” A convincing example is the study by auto research group Edmunds that found that using a gas leaf blower for a half hour produces more hydrocarbon emissions than driving a Ford Raptor pick-up truck the 3,500 miles from Maine to California.
Residents of Greenwich have waited long enough. Limits on gas-powered leaf blowers were studied by the Health Department in 1994, in 2012 and again in 2023. More than 30 neighboring towns have similar ordinances; several have outright bans on gas-powered leaf blowers.
The RTM has the opportunity to reduce noise and air pollution in Greenwich and help restore citizens’ faith in effective government. They can do so by restricting the use of GPLBs at tonight’s RTM meeting, without further delay.
Jonathan Perloe, Cos Cob