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Greenwich Leaf Blower Debate Heats Up

GREENWICH, Conn. – The controversial leaf blower issue in Greenwich, pitting neighbor against neighbor, was once again returned to the Board of Health on Thursday after residents had their say on Selectman Drew Marzullo’s proposals.

Bill Ferraro, owner of Cos Cob Landscaping, said any ban would make his work more difficult. It should be up to landscaping professionals to use leaf blowers correctly, he said. “Why should anyone be denied their right to work on their own property? If my next-door neighbor doesn’t like it, am I to take their feelings into consideration before my own rights?” he said.

However, landscape business owner Scott McDermot, who supports a ban, said that in his studies of horticulture, he has found leaf blowers do more harm than good to gardens. His company does not use leaf blowers, he said.

The Board of Health will have until March 8 to decide whether to consider amending the existing noise ordinance laws. The selectmen hope the amendments would focus on educating about the laws, creating a sliding scale of fines for violations and requiring landscape operators to register with the town, in addition to possibly banning gas-powered leaf blowers seasonally.

The Board of Health rejected a proposal last year for a six-month ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. The Greenwich group Citizens Against Leafblower Mania, also known as CALM , originally introduced the measure, which the selectmen took up earlier this year.

Gretchen Biggs, founder of CALM, said leaf blower usage is not just a noise issue. “During the summer months, we have very poor air quality already, and we really need to think of the health issues,” she said. “It’s the emission from these machines that we are protecting ourselves as much as the noise.”

If the health board once again nixes the proposal, the Board of Selectmen would have to create its own ordinance proposal before March 15 to be considered for the Representative Town Meeting’s April agenda.

Marzullo headed a group that met throughout February to examine the issue and came up with changes that emphasize enforcement and education. He proposed banning gas-powered leaf blowers Sundays and fining residents on a sliding scale for violations. A first offense would warrant a warning and education; a second offense would result in a $100 fine; and three or more offenses would be a fine of $249.

Currently, the number of leaf blowers used on a property differs by the size of a lot. Marzullo said this is impractical, and police officers should have a standard rule to enforce. He suggests making the ordinance differ according to where the leaf blowers are being operated – in the backcountry or downtown.

Chief James Heavey of the Greenwich Police Department said that under current ordinances, police need to witness the offense. In addition, only individuals can be ticketed, not an entire company.

“I believe the first time it happens, it should be educational … if it’s the second offense, I want them ticketed,” said Marzullo.

Gordon Ennis, a town resident, said the proposal is another example of increasing intrusion by the government. “If someone owned a leaf blower and you banned it, then how would they get that job done without pushing a broom or hiring someone else to do it?” Ennis asked. The ordinance would make life more difficult, he said.

Resident Carl Straub was also against a ban and said those who were annoyed by leaf blowers should know when their neighbors’ lawns are being groomed. “It all happens with a prescribed schedule. Landscapers show up at the same time, same day every week,” said Straub. Residents should just shut their windows, turn on the air conditioning and “go shopping.”

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