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City set to restrict electric as well as gas leaf blowers

All blower use would be banned from May through mid-October.

A Greenworks backpack 60-volt battery powered leaf blower in use in an image from the company website.

Evanston’s City Council, which has long restricted the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers much of the year, is set Monday to expand the ban to include all types of blowers — including quieter, battery-powered ones.

The ordinance would shorten the period when blowers could be used by roughly two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall. The new allowed dates would be March 30 to May 1 and Oct. 15 to the first Thursday in December.

It would also shorten the hours when blowers could be used from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, instead of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends instead of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And it would prohibit leaf blower usage on city holidays.

The ordinance would also make property owners liable for leaf blower violations by their landscape contractors and set fines of up to $150 for violations.

The ordinance does not address existing problems with enforcing the restrictions. When police now are called about leaf blower complaints they often find the landscape crews involved long gone by the time they respond to the call. And with the city focused recently on reducing police staffing, it seems unlikely leaf blower enforcement will become a higher police priority if the new ordinance is adopted.

Austin Hall, owner of Evanston-based Greenwise Landscaping tells Evanston Now battery electric leaf blowers “have come a long way” and the battery-powered Greenworks blowers his firm now uses are “largely sufficient to perform the job.”

“Fall is a bit of an exception because of the amount of leaves,” Hall says, “but with the technology where it is, I think we can get the job done — although it takes a little longer.”

Hall says it would be challenging if the industry had to move entirely away from leaf blowers and could only use rakes.

“That would obviously take a lot more time, and we’d have to charge more for our service,” he added.

Hall says his company has been moving in the direction of using emission-free battery-powered equipment for some time and has made a substantial investment in electric mowers and leaf blowers.

He said he could support completely outlawing gas-powered equipment, but couldn’t support a ban on all types of leaf blowers because it would increase costs to customers.

Clark Elliott.

At Thursday night’s 2nd Ward meeting, Clark Elliott said he’s a 40-year resident of Evanston, but he’s being driven out of the city by the incredible noise of leaf blowers in his neighborhood.

He called claims that a leaf-blower ban would raise costs to consumers “scare tactics from the landscapers.”

“Their business model is to make as much noise as possible in the city,” Elliott added.

But Mark McKeown said he doesn’t understand why the city would ban electric leaf blowers but still permit gas-powered lawnmowers.

“It’s just going to piss people off,” McKeown said. “I would rather move toward electric lawnmowers than go after electric leaf blowers.”

Peter Braithwaite.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said he still needs more information to be able to make a sound decision. He said that in his ward he gets more complaints about landscapers’ trucks blocking alleys in the morning when people are trying to get to work.

He said he’s been told that if landscapers have to use rakes it would increase the cost of a landscaping service by as much as 60%. And he’s also concerned about how the new ordinance could be enforced.

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