EDITORIAL: Time to put leaf blower matter to bed

Don’t look now, but gas-powered leaf blowers are back before the Town Meeting. We think it is time to put the matter to rest for the last time.

Last year, after a decade of debate, the town voted to ban the noisy machines from being used during the summer months. Electric blowers would be allowed to sweep up grass clippings and other lighter debris. The ban was supposed to be in effect from Memorial Day to Labor Day giving homeowners and their landscapers ample time to conduct spring and fall cleanups — and giving residents a noise-free and dust-free summer when many folks have their windows open.

But something happened in the process. No one thought to put enforcement provisions in the new bylaw.

“It was an oversight,” said proponent Jeannie Stahl.

Thus, it was business as usual throughout the summer of 2022.

This year, there are two articles in the warrant dealing with gas-powered leaf blowers. Article 47 calls on Town Meeting to remove the 2022 bylaw regulating gas-powered leaf blowers.

But Article 48 seeks to put teeth in the 2022 bylaw and names both the Health Department and Police Department as the enforcing authorities. The Select Board would have the power to suspend the ban in an emergency. Proponents say the issue has come before Town Meetings for at least the last 10 years.

Interestingly, penalties for violation of the ban would be placed on the homeowner, not the offending landscaper.

We think that this is the proper way to enforce the bylaw and a nod to the landscaping companies who otherwise would be caught between the rule of law and demanding homeowners who like their properties to be spotless.

Written warnings would be issued to the property owner for the first violation. A $100 fine would be imposed for the second and $200 for any violation thereafter.

No one can say that the leaf blower ban has not been argued before Town Meeting repeatedly. Proponents have been flexible over the years to reach consensus and finally reached it last year. They trimmed their proposal year after year, narrowing the window from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the last go-round, so no one can say they did not compromise. 

We hope that, if Town Meeting grants enforcement powers, the Police and Health departments will take those powers seriously so that Marbleheaders can enjoy a quiet, dust-free summer.

The Current Editorial Board
info@marbleheadnews.org | + posts

The members of the Current’s editorial board are Ed Bell, who serves as chairman, and Virginia Buckingham, both members of the Current’s board of directors; Kris Olson and Will Dowd, members of the Current’s editorial staff; and Robert Peck and Joseph P. Kahn. Peck is an attorney, former chairman of Marblehead’s Finance Committee and a former Select Board member. Kahn is a retired Boston Globe journalist.

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