Montclair will allow gas-powered leaf blowers for an extra 15 days
By LOUIS C. HOCHMAN
Update: Monday, Dec. 6: Montclair officials have rescinded the extension to the period when gas-powered leaf blowers are allowed.
Earlier this year, the Montclair Township Council acted to make the period when gas-powered leaf blowers were allowed each year a lot shorter — prompted by the concerns of residents upset over noise and environmental impacts.
But Friday, Montclair officials announced that for this winter — the first since the township's new leaf blower ordinance was passed — the period is getting just a bit longer.
Under the ordinance, gas-powered blowers can be used from March 15 through May 15, and from Oct. 15 through Dec. 15. Montclair previously allowed leaf-blower use from the start of March through June, and from the start of October until Dec. 15.
Friday, the township announced in a message from its emergency management coordinator, Robert Bianco, that the blowers will be allowed until Dec. 31 of this year. They won't be allowed on Saturday, Dec. 25 — Christmas day.
The ordinance regulating leaf blowers also gives him leeway to modify the dates when they're allowed "when extreme or unusual weather conditions warrant."
Bianco cited the mild fall as the reason for the extension, saying "we have experienced there are still many trees with leaves on them in the township. This has delayed the fall cleanup for many homes."
Peter Holm of Quiet Montclair, a group that lobbied the township council for the shorter gas-powered leaf blower season, told Montclair Local in an email Friday the group opposes the idea "landscapers need to be able to use their most powerful and highly polluting tools until the day the last leaf in Montclair hits the ground."
He said when the Township Council reduced the length of time leaf blowers are allowed, its members "spoke quite clearly" about the new restrictions, "given the hazards that these outdated machines pose to public and worker health, environmental protection, and neighborhood quality of life."
"We have to ask whether or not the township management took into consideration any of those concerns when it decided to extend the fall use period by 25 percent and to do so a full two weeks before the period was even ready to expire," he wrote.
And he said, based on National Weather Service reports showing about-average temperatures, Montclair's weather in November wasn't unusual — "and certainly not extreme."
The debate over leaf blower restrictions had been a lengthy one in Montclair, leading to a 5-2 council vote in February over the new dates. They bring the period when gas-powered blowers down to 93 days out of the year, instead of the prior 168.
Landscaping companies opposed the new restrictions, claiming the township was bound by a settlement first reached in the 1990s, after Montclair first put limits on when the blowers could be used. But a judge ruled this summer the decades-old settlement couldn't bind the current Township Council.
Only three towns in New Jersey — Montclair, Maplewood and Princeton — currently have any limitations on gas-powered leaf blowers. Summit also piloted a summer ban this year.
This article has been updated to acknowledge Princeton's recently enacted restrictions on leaf blowers, and to correct a reference to the length of Montclair's extension in the headline.