The Evanston City Council tonight is scheduled to consider expanding its seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers to also bar electric-powered blowers.

The proposed ordinance would also raise the potential fine for violations from $75 to a maximum of $375 for a third offense.

The ordinance now limits the use of the gas-powered leaf blowers favored by landscape contractors to the spring and fall cleanup seasons — banning their use from May 15 to Sept. 30, and again from Dec. 15 to March 30.

The addition of a ban on electric leaf blowers would impact many more private homeowners — who are more likely to use the electric blowers.

In addition the proposed ordinance would make “any person who authorizes or permits the use of a leaf blower” guilty of a violation, potentially making homeowners liable for the actions of their landscape contractors.

The ordinance would also permit city officials to revoke the license of landscaping firms whose workers violated the ban.

In a memo to aldermen accompanying the proposed ordinance, Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said staff had received “several” complaints about the use of electric blowers during the periods when gas blowers are now banned.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, asked Sunday by Evanston Now about the actual number of complaints, how many violation notices for the existing ban have been issued in the past year and the cost of enforcing the ordinance, said he would have a staff member gather information about those issues.

According to Consumer Reports, Evanston is one of only four communities in Illinois that restrict leaf blower use.

The restrictions are more popular in California and in suburbs around New York City.

Landscape industry groups have argued that bans on blowers would increase landscape maintenance costs to homeowners by about 20 percent, by increased the amount of time required to complete the job. 

But groups concerned about noise pollution complain that noise from blowers degrades the quality of life in communities. Blower manufacturers argue that new, quieter models should be exempted from any ban.

Related document

Proposed leaf blower ordinance (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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16 Comments

  1. Leaves VS. Snow & Ice

    how about the city actually enforce that residents maintain their sidewalks in the winter. Instead of worrying about this leaf blower bit, the city could get quite a bit of revenue by fining people for snow and ice on the sidewalks all winter. This is also an issue of public safety. Moreover, what about citizens with limited mobility who are completely barred from safely walking or riding down the sidewalks because of the obstructions?? I'd be willing to bet that if the city were to be challenged on that because they do not enforce the law, their ears would perk right up!!

    Big white house on the corner of Davis and Forest, you are perhaps the biggest violator of this….

  2. A new city Noise Control Department is in order

    Well why stop with the ban of electric leaf blowers.

    Let's ban lawnmowers. They are very noisy.

    Let's ban the use of jackhammers. A first offense should be $1,000 – they are deafening.  Have you ever tried yelling at your kids over a jackhammer?

    Yelling for more than 10 seconds should be banned. It's not nice to yell and you could damage someone's hearing.

    Let's ban dogs who can bark above certain decibels. Barking dogs sure can be a noise nuisance.

    While we're at it, we need to ban vehicles larger than a Toyota Pious' in residential neighborhoods. The constant noise and fumes from these vehicles are a nauseating nuisance.

    To do all of this, we need to create another city department – the Department of Noise Control – and hire another several dozen government union employees who will be responsible to investigate and process violations of noise polluters.

    Perhaps there's federal grant money available to help kick-start the new Noise Control Department.

    City bureaucrats must form a Noise Control committee and get cracking on this deafening need.

  3. How about we one up this

    and ban gas blowers all the time? Their carbon footprint is absolutely off the charts. Come on Evanston, I thought you were progressive.

  4. Leaf Blowers

    Why not just allow leaf blowers during certain hours of the day and enforce it (it is kind of silly anyway- loud mowers or edgers are not banned for instance).  

    Also, a fine on residents who put leaves in the street is not a good idea as it will not be able to be effectively enforced.

    Save the enforcement money that otherwise would have been spent toward other more pressing needs.

    Thanks.

  5. leaf blowers and snow removal

    I have always deplored the sound of leaf blowers and wondered just how much more efficient they are at gathering leaves than the old fashioned raking method I employed for years.  So often I get the impression that leaf blowing simply winds up moving the leaves (and other unwanted stuff) from one persons yard to another private or public yard.

    If not banning them at least set a decibel limit on them and restrict their use during certain hours and days, e.g. no use on Sundays or any early mornings or evenings..

  6. Why do we need leaf blowers at all?

    Leaf blowers seem to me to be a ridiculous source of noise and air pollution, and a waste of energy – the leaves blow onto someone else's yard, or back into the yard they came from – their visual impact is very temporary.  I recommend outlawing them altogether.

  7. Silly Ordinances are a waste of time and money!

    What's next? A ban on lawn mowers? How about the city provide the resources to enforce existing laws before they make new ones. How about they enforce the 20 mph speed limit on Church Street. Or enforce the law that says I should not be able to hear your car stereo from 75 feet away. I'm  more annoyed by people driving down the street setting off car alarms because they think the base on there stereo makes them look cool.

    When I did a police ride a long, the officer told me they don't bother enforcing certain laws because it's just too time consuming to bother. I have nothing against the Evanston PD but they cannot enforce all these laws that slightly inconvenience people. I agree with glcoo12 allow them within certain time periods.

    Lets focus on more important issues.

  8. Yard Waste/leaf blowers

    I did not think the City could come up with any other ordinances but they did.  Are the City officials really trying to keep residents living in our town or force them to move to friendlier communities as Wilmette.  Since when does an electric blower hurt the residents?  Also, why should a resident be responsible for the streets, alleys and public areas that collect leaves.  The residents have no control as to how the wind blows.  I have no trees on my front property and one tree on the parkway.  Just because the City did not make enough from the stickers on the bags, they want to now penalize residents further.

    The City also blundered when they projected over $1.5 million in transfer taxes a few years ago.  Anybody with half a brain knows you don't project an increase in a declining market.  I can't wait to see what else the City has in mind.

    I would think it is illegal to make residents clean the streets and alleys.  They are public.  I can't wait to see what law suits come out of this next ordinance, if passed. The City will fall deeper in debt trying to defend another blunder.

  9. On The Matter of Leaf Blowers

    While the concern appears to focus on the noise created by these things, I find the smells from the noxious fumes to be every bit as annoying — if not more so.

  10. No fumes from electric blowers

    Lawn mowers are four times louder than my electric blower…Joyschwabach we are talking electric blowers,there are no fumes from electric blowers. Have a nice day Evanston residents, i will be out front cleaning my street today so i don't get fined for having a dirty street.

  11. Ban large industrial lawnmowers! Right idea, wrong direction!

    I thought we were trying to become a green city!  How is banning electric blowers green?  If the city wants to reduce air pollution, ban those monstrous industrial lawnmowers that clean postage stamp sized lawns!  These are far more of a nuisance and we have considered moving just because of them.  We can't even enjoy our backyard or the local park without being 'smoked out'.  Either way the larger fines are a great idea!  How about some actually enforcement too.  

  12. How about Evanston start enforcement!

    I think we need to start enforcing the ban we have.  If that means higher fines, great! 

    1. Enforcement ?

      Residents and contractors may be inconsiderate but they do learn how things work—no matter how high the 'stated' fines are.
      Leaf blowing when not allowed ?  So few tickets, just ignore.
      Heavy snow and not shovel ? The city took four days to even issue warnings and only then a few tickets—they could probably find that many violations on one block.  Just ignore the threat.
      Bikes racing down and bobbing/weaving on downtown sidewalks and making pedestrians hurry aside ? Do worry the police will not ticket or even warn.  Just ignore the law.
      The Council can pass all kinds of laws and fines but they don't push police or others to enforce, so residents just ignore the laws–these and others.

      1. How to really enforce the law

        What you say is true and correct.  However, I find it would be a waste of police time and manpower to enforce these non criminal violations.  May I suggest that the city hire a firm, say Lincoln Towing for example, to enforce all these violations.  They would receive a per centage of every ticket violation written as their compensation and would have the legal power to collect all fines.  I think this would make us a much more compliant people.

  13. Enforce the leafblower law
    Let’s up the fine and hire a seasonal employee to follow an alert the police of the exact whereabouts of these ordinance perpetrators. In my neighborhood the lawns are small enough you can cut the grass with a pair of scissors. Often you will have 4 different landscape companies at the same time all using these blowers.
    This will pay for itself and give someone a job.

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