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City eyes expanding ban on leaf blowers

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)

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