California city irked about leaf blowers’ noise, pollution

After years of debating a ban on leaf blowers, the city of Newport Beach, Cal., is, well, debating it some more, according to the Daily Pilot, the newspaper serving Newport Beach, a high-end community with many multi-million dollar homes.

The city announced Thursday an online poll to gauge residents and business owners’ take on the matter. Options on the survey range from a ban on gas-powered blowers to some sort of restriction on the quieter electric-powered leaf blowers, as well as restricted hours of use.

Most people who complain about leaf blowers cite noise or how they stir up harmful particles in the air. Others say it’s a cost-effective way to keep landscaping clean. And at the heart of the debate is the question of the government’s role in regulating environmental impacts.

“I hear this motor long after it’s gone,” said Granville resident Carole Wade. “It’s always in your head. It’s just so loud.”

The survey is a result of years of residents’ complaints that culminated in a February City Council session about leaf blowers. Residents made suggestions at the meeting and registered their gripes.

“There are some issues that you continuously get comments about, even when they’re on the back-burner,” said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, a member of the Environmental Quality Affairs Committee, “and leaf blowers are No. 1.”

Gardner estimates that for every e-mail message she gets defending blowers she gets 10 messages opposing them.

One of the issues the city is considering is the economic impact of a ban: Would it burden gardeners who couldn’t rake leaves fast enough to be profitable? Would the cost get passed onto residents and business owners and be too much to bear?

“I don’t think any of us want to put a bunch of gardeners out of business,” Gardner said. “They don’t have that cushion.”

People who hire gardeners also have a stake in the debate — the homeowners associations and property managers. The city is contacting them to get their response to a potential ban, Gardner said.

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