Greenwich Selectmen Agree on 1-Year Variance on Gas Leaf Blower Ban for Town Workers

This week the three-member Board of Selectmen were all in favor of a one-year variance for town departments from the new gas leaf blower restriction that goes into effect at the end of this month.

Last month the town administrator requested a 3-year waiver for the town before they would be required to switch to electric equipment.

Ben Branyan said the Town has 11 handheld and 58 backpack units. Replacement cost for entire inventory is estimated at $306,000.

The variance is mostly relevant to the Parks & Rec Dept and the Dept of Public Works.

DPW commissioner Amy Siebert spoke in favor of a 3 year variance for the town, saying workers use the equipment for more than lawncare. For example, she said they are valuable during road striping and road markings.

Until recently the town noise ordinance fell under the purview of the Board of Health. But after that board voted last December to repeal the noise ordinance altogether, the town was briefly without a noise ordinance before the RTM voted in January to restore the noise ordinance with an amendment restricting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the summer.

The use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in residential zones is now prohibited from 6:00pm the Friday before Memorial Day through September 30, except for properties of 2+ acres, where the prohibition ends the day after Labor Day. Penalties for violations would be levied starting in 2025.

Quiety Yards Greenwich, the group who worked to bring the ordinance forward, had noted that 300 municipalities across the country and 31 towns nearby have summertime or full bans.

Their members spoke out against a 3-year variance requested last month for the town.

After the request for a 3-year waiver for the town,  Quiet Yards’ Svetlana Wasserman said a variance was not necessary because the town didn’t need to replace the entire fleet with electric blowers, and gas blowers would still be needed for 9 months of the year.

At Thursday’s meeting Elizabeth Dempsey from Quiet Yards said the electric machines would pay back for commercial landscapers and the town in one to two years, and that  her group had data from landscapers and other towns that have transitioned to show they have saved money.

“The 30 towns surrounding Greenwich that have already transitioned – we couldn’t find anyone who went out of business. This isn’t a new paradigm here. We can’t get over the support from residents since we passed this,” she said.

First Selectman Camillo said he favored a one year variance for the town rather than a three years.

He said when he was in his 20’s he had a side job doing landscaping.

“I’m very supportive of our local businessmen. They don’t have paid lobbyists,” he said.

“A lot of them don’t have time to go to RTM meetings. Anything we do, we are pro-small business, which creates 80 to 90% of jobs in our economy…With that in mind – and also (considering) health and safety.”

He noted there were more people working from home since the pandemic and that tolerance for loud noise had diminished.

“It’s not as if the town and private guys have to take the gas leaf blowers and throw them away. They can use them in the shoulder seasons. This is just for the summer,”Camillo said. “In most cases in the summer time you’re blowing off driveways and you just don’t need them.”

Lauren Rabin said the Selectmen had received abundant input.

“I made the comment, ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,'” she said. “I don’t believe that one group should have an advantage – whether that’s local government or the landscapers. Whatever the decision is, has to be fair to both.”

Democratic Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan said,“The RTM has spoken,” referring to the RTM vote to approve the amended noise ordinance that banned gas blowers in the summer months.

But she noted that the way the ordinance was worded – there are no fines the first summer – it already gave private landscapers a year to transition away from gas leaf blowers, and she believed it was fair to do the same for the town.

Town attorney Barbara Schellenberg said she had 10 business days to draft a decision reflecting the Selectmen’s unanimous agreement on a one-year variance for the town, meaning the board could vote on the legal opinion at their next meeting, which is May 23.

The town has also received requests for variances from commercial landscapers. That will betaken up on May 23.

Quiet Yards Greenwich shared a statement in response to the Selectmen’s decision on Thursday.

“Today, the Board of Selectmen gave Town departments the same amount of time to comply with gas leaf blower rules as was granted to commercial landscapers. The gas leaf blower ban goes into effect this May 24, 2024 at 6:00 pm. Fines will begin in 2025. Anyone who is out of compliance after May 24, 2024 can be reported to the police.

We are all looking forward to the start of quieter and cleaner summers without gas leaf blowers.  This was a change that had unprecedented support and has been a concern of Greenwich residents for over 30 years.”

Still hoping for a quiet summer…

See also:

Town Requests 3-Year Variance from Gas Leaf Blowers Summer Ban April 25, 2024

New RTM Flexes Its Muscle: Gets New Noise Ordinance in Place, Including Summer Ban on Gas Leaf Blowers Jan 17, 2024

Following Health Board’s “Bewildering” Repeal of Noise Ordinance, RTM Postpones Gas-Power Leaf Item Dec 12, 2023

Greenwich Board of Health Surrenders Local Control to Hartford December 7, 2023

First Selectman Camillo Calls for Board of Health Chair to Step Down Over Noise Ordinance Decision Dec 11, 2023

Greenwich Board of Health Surrenders Local Control to Hartford Dec 7, 2023

Restricting Gas Powered Leaf Blowers? Dozens Testify at RTM in Support of Amended Noise Ordinance Oct 24, 2023

Health Board Rejects Gas Leaf Blower Ordinance; Votes to Create Landscaper Registration System June 27, 2023

Pressure Mounts on Board of Health at Hearing on Expanded Gas-Powered Blower Restrictions May 23, 2023