Since 2021, Montclair has had a five month ban on leaf blowers that lasts from May 15 to October 15. A group of concerned residents have shown up to town council meetings for months, calling for Montclair to eliminate the use of gas leaf blowers in town year round, citing noise pollution and environmental risks caused by leaf blowers that are detrimental to the health and spirit of the town.

Deborah Nagin, who worked in the environmental health field for 25 years, voiced her objections to leaf blowers in a public comment at the April 25th Montclair Council meeting. Nagin specifically highlighted the consequences leaf blowers have on the local environment.

“Leaf blowers are a bad technology,” Nagin said. “They are bad for people. They are bad for the environment. Beyond the harmful and excessive noise, leaf blowers generate wind storms filled with hazardous contaminants. Gas powered leaf blowers are inefficient combustion engines.

Nagin supplemented her argument with statistics.

“Thirty percent of the gas and oil that [leaf blowers] burn is released directly into the environment. It’s estimated that running a gas powered leaf blower for one hour generates the equivalent air pollution of driving a car for 15 hours.”

This is backed up by a 2011 study by the research firm Edmunds.

Nagin pointed to Maplewood as an example of a nearby town that passed similar legislation.

“Localities across this country, including our neighbor in Maplewood, have passed leaf blower laws,” Nagin said. “Landscapers in those municipalities have adjusted their practices, deploying their crews in different ways and using different techniques to get the job done. They have used those problem solving skills to adjust to change.”

Anna Grossman, who has lived in Montclair for six years, also supports a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

“The emissions and the carbon output of landscaping equipment, specifically, gas leaf blowers at the moment are outsized compared to what we need them to do,” Grossman said. “It’s an outdated method of land management that is unhealthy for people, for the climate, and for the environment, and for pollinators.”

Grossman also believes that leaf blowers are not necessary to maintain a healthy garden.

“I’m a gardener. I became a gardener when I moved to Montclair. I don’t use leaf blowers,” Grossman said. “I learned how to garden through the classes they offered at Van Vleck. They taught me to not get rid of my leaves. They taught me how to create a healthy garden, which in turn is healthy for humans and for pollinators.”

Right now, the town council appears split on banning gas leaf blowers. In a letter to his constituents, Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis positioned himself between the two sides.

“My position right now is: Hold and get more information,” Yacobellis wrote. “A ban is therefore not imminent as I am the swing vote on this issue.”

Yacobellis does see merit in banning leaf blowers.

“They are toxic for the environment and the workers who use them,” Yacobellis wrote. “They’re disruptively noisy. They are excessively over-used on the silliest things. Every speck of grass or dirt doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t) be cleared using a blower. In fact, mulch-mowing and leaving some natural debris on the ground is actually healthy.”

Despite these sentiments, Yacobellis does not feel a ban is practical yet. Montclair’s Department of Public Works has not found an effective alternative to gas-powered leaf blowers.

“I’m also getting fierce pushback from landscape companies,” Yacobellis wrote. “[They are] promising to cancel contracts and stop servicing Montclair, including providing snow removal services. That gives me pause.”

Once Yacobellis feels a ban is practical, he will support a leaf blower ban.

Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager has said she would support the ban.

“I’ve looked at their data, I’ve read all their emails, and they convinced me this is the right thing to do,” said Schlager, at the April 25 council meeting, of residents’ efforts to ban gas leaf blowers. “When we do have an ordinance, and we’ve all had a chance to look at it, I will support that and I will second that ordinance.”

Schlager said she hoped to do it sooner rather than later, and hopefully at the May 16 council meeting.

“If the town of Maplewood could do it, I’m sure we can do that as well,” she added.

Councilor Bob Russo said he is working on a compromise ordinance for Tuesday’s council meeting.

“I need a second to even place it on the agenda. So many excuses for not leading the way here. Electric is the future and it’s possible now to shift our municipal equipment by this fall. The cost is minimal, staff training is easy, and I don’t want to impose restrictions on residents or landscapers that we don’t abide by ourselves,” said Russo.

“The former manager was never on board with a change and seemed to resist the public’s demand for transition to electric leaf blowers,” Russo added. “Hopefully, a majority of the Council will set a progressive policy for Montclair, so we continue to be a leader in environmental health and sustainability!”

Grossman believes a leaf blower ban will eventually happen.

“Good politicians bring people together and find solutions,” Grossman said. ”We have some very smart people on the town council. I think they’re going to be thoughtful. They all understand this is a public health and environmental health issue.”

16 replies on “Montclair Residents Push For Ban on Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers”

  1. I suggest that before any council person votes they personally rake Edgemont Park. I am curious how many of the ban advocates live in apartments or houses with tiny yards. I for one enjoy seeing the beautiful well kept yards in Montclair. Making the job more difficult for the hardworking landscapers seems cruel. I own an electric leaf blower….it’s basically worthless.

  2. The sooner we ban leaf blowers the better. Banning leaf blowers is a big step toward creating healthier and more peaceful communities. Leaf blowers disturb the tranquility of residential areas causes stress and annoyance among residents. These machines emit harmful pollutants into the air, including fine particulate matter and hydrocarbon emissions, which can have detrimental effects on human health and the environment. By banning leaf blowers, we are protecting our well-being while encouraging alternative, quieter, and more sustainable methods for maintaining our outdoor spaces. Montclairians, is time to prioritize the quality of life for our community and move toward a cleaner, quieter future without the negative impacts of leaf blowers.

  3. On the flipside, I have had electric machines for 10 years, give or take 2 or 3 yrs (a sense of time is elusive at my age). They all work fine. Yeah, I can’t work in the rain or with wet grass, but I get to save the world.

    Seriously, I don’t understand these advocates. They should go back and ask their grandparents how to advocate. First, think about others, not yourselves. Think worker protections. Think work rules. Think enforcement.

    The ban is not necessary if you do it right. It will be voluntary and guess what, it is no problem for the Twnshp to comply.

    C’mon. Try a little harder.

  4. Once again Montclair is not LEADING on something so easy. Once again, we are not progressive. If more than 100 communities including White Plains, Maplewood and all of Washington DC can do this, why can’t we? More than 100 towns and cities have done it in the US, don’t you think we can too? The landscapers already have purchased the alternative battery powered blowers. It’s just the town and schools that need to get on board. Imagine the lives this council will improve by implementing this ban. How many of you gag when you walk by a property that has men with these carcinogen-spewing machines running? How many of you roll up the windows on your cars? Now imagine your loved one strapping this to their back every day for many hours to make money to feed your family. Would you want your son or husband wearing these every day for hours knowing they cause cancer and lung problems? I’d be curious to know how many of these men that are forced to use them for work are offered health insurance.

    I have heard some residents are writing to the council to try and stop this ban. Funny thing, I haven’t seen one of them come to the microphone at one of these meetings to do that in public. Why do you think that is?

  5. They can start by at least banning them in the spring, when all they really accomplish is blowing pollen and dirt around.

  6. I know it was a last minute add to the agenda, but did anyone actually read the proposed ordinance that was tabled? The characterization of this ordinance and its scope is misleading.

    Many of our ordinances start off with s segment of Purpose & Intent (see Section A). The rest of an ordinance is intended to support of the Purpose & Intent statement. Then this ordinance quickly goes off the rails and just becomes a Noise ordinance restricting electric leaf blowers. I don’t understand. Proponents have been working to further amend this ordinance for many, many months. They can’t draft a proper ordinance?

    I do not support this ordinance for this reason.

  7. And now that we want to restrict leaf blowers powered solely by electric or battery power

    First, I just love the run of a phrase here. The science is a little weird as batteries produce electricity, right? To power something. And can I get a hybrid leaf blower powered by electricity and a battery. What amazing’ times we live in.

    Second, so we are prohibiting stick ‘sweepers’/low-powered, consumer models for seniors. Good. They tend to be high pitched buzzing like bees or wasps.

    Third, giving extra hours to those who live on premises who fall into which acceptable lifestyle profile? Because these are hours that have been studied and proven to be the most equitable to the majority(?) and once again, the minorities…well, tough. I personally like holding on to the weekend distinction even though the artist is giving his up. Yup, that is how we ran things back in the picket fence days. Sundays were especially sacrosanct. Saturdays were work days and Sundays we were commanded to be a day of rest. Now not sure we need to address flex-time and off-peak commuting.

    OK, ADD kicking in. You get the idea.

  8. Yes Frank I agree on that. Not a well-done ordinance. Hopefully they are taking the time to re-do that ASAP. This a health concern much more than a noise concern. If any resident can actually say they would be fine with their spouse, child or themselves using these for hours a day after being schooled on the health and environmental dangers, I wish they will show up in person to present their views publicly instead up hiding behind their computers and spewing their “I’ve lived here this long and pay this much in taxes”. NO, we won’t be seeing those types showing up because they’d be afraid to show their hypocritical faces.

    The advocates that have worked hard on this are well-versed. I hope the town is utilizing them to pass an ordinance that shows we are a town that values health and humanity over convenience.

  9. Please keep in mind that noise pollution is also a health issue not just an annoyance.

  10. Mangold,

    C’mon! This was an obvious bait and switch tactic that was never thought through.

    Please keep in mind we measure noise in decibels. Most proponents went on record that electric blowers emit less noise. I will absolutely guarantee that the Township will be sued and lose if there are no decibel standards in our noise ordinance. Ask Code Enforcement how many sound meters they have. Probably the same number as their light meters stored in the file cabinet draw on the 2nd floor.

    No worries, we are doing it by hours! Just cracks me up the legal advice this Council gets. Let me know when everyone wants a serious discussion outside of the choir practices.

  11. Couldn’t make the the council meeting but I did contact the mayor, my councilor, and the councilor-at-large. I’m all for switching to electric eventually. I just don’t think a lot of people understand how expensive commercial grade electric blowers and their related equipment are (chargers and batteries). These are not your Ryobi blowers. I also don’t think people understand that landscapers (and I’m not one) would have to purchase multiple units for each crew with multiple batteries for each blower. And if landscapers can’t afford the additional equipment or don’t have a setup at their home base to recharge all of these batteries every night then they will go back to using rakes. Yes, that is great for the environment but their customers will pay a price for that that extra time and labor.

    Now, my landscape company does use some electric equipment but they have to plug in their chargers at every customer’s house to try to keep the batteries usable for the day. They use their equipment a lot more than any of us ever did or currently do.

    As for Maplewood, they didn’t make this move overnight as indicated by this on their website – “This new regulation follows a six-year partial ban and educational effort in response to reviewing scientific data which demonstrated that gas leaf blowers emissions, airborne particulates, loud noise, and powerful air currents negatively impacted our air quality and public health.”

  12. Legally I can think about five different arguments that Montclair is on thin ice.

    1. We have no consistent, objective standards for noise disturbance anywhere in our code.

    2. We just passed this year a very dubious ordinance that mandates a large amount of residential zoned property to have, per a sliding scale, x-amount dedicated to pervious property coverage (e.g. grass, trees, et al.)

    3. We single out a device – originally because it was gas powered – and now we are singling it out, even from its family of related gas powered devices, for noise.

    4. The Master Plan and the MP Re-examination report, e.g. character & form

    5. The new sub-divsion lot size law.

    Whether the courts call it arbitrary & capricious, stupid & dimwitted, or just laugh, the ordinance that was read is dead in the water. You just blew up your own initiative. Congratulations! Put a fork in it.

  13. And as long as we’re in this bubble with blinders on, how ’bout our tree ordinance? For something like $250, you can legally cut down the leaf-dropping offenders. I wonder how many months of higher priced landscaping services to justify the cost of your permit. If you even filed for a permit. Remember, it is better to ask for forgiveness. Raise your hand if you experienced the sounds of tree removal services on weekends. And there is the increased curb appeal of trees blocking you abode when you sell senior year.

    What I honestly don’t understand is why our ordinance is following urban forestry standards. We just met The City. The relationship is moving kinda fast. I’m not sure I want to have boroughs.

  14. The solution to the “leaf blower problem” is quite simple. The root cause of the problem is clearly evident, leaves. So get rid of the cause, deciduous trees. Cut them all down. Half of them are near or at the end of their life span anyway. Prudently replant where warranted some nice coniferous trees. Some pine, spruce, fir, etc. Turn Montclair into a Christmas tree farm and we could have an annual Tannenbaum Festival. A couple months of chainsaws is a small price to to get rid of leaf blowers for once and for all!

  15. “Good politicians bring people together and find solutions,” one person said. ”We have some very smart people on the town council. I think they’re going to be thoughtful.” That sounds like a very desperate advocate of an unpopular idea, or someone new to city council hearings.

  16. The worst trees are the ones owned by the town. When I walk my dog I see so many trees in bad shape. And every time we have a strong wind storm large branches end up on th ground.

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