Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says he’s considering a “targeted enforcement” campaign against illegal use of leaf blowers when the seasonal windows for their legal use ends.

That was part of his pitch to aldermen Monday night as they approved introduction of revisions to the leaf blower ordinance that would make property owners liable for illegal leaf blower use by their landscape contractors.

The proposed ordinance, scheduled for final approval on March 23, would also slightly shorten the fall leaf-blower season, ending it on the first Thursday in December, rather than on Dec. 14.

Bobkiewicz, who said he’s proposed changes to the leaf blower ordinance three or four times in his five years as city manager, said some residents “feel it’s their constitutional right to use a leaf blower whenever they want, and an equal number are adamantly opposed to their use.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she didn’t understand why the city singles out leaf blowers because “lawn mowers are just as loud and run for a lot longer period of time.”

But Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says she gets lots of calls about people blowing leaves onto other people’s property, a behavior that’s not addressed by the ordinance.

Rainey added that if the city is going to enforce the ordinance it should enforce it against the homeowner who hires the landscaper.

The ordinance only applies to backpack-mounted or handheld leaf blowers powered by gasoline motors, so wheeled gasoline-powered blowers and all electric-powered leaf blowers are legal for use at any time of year in the city.

This leaf blower is never illegal in Evanston.

The manager says the city’s 311 service received 63 complaints about leaf blower use last year. Evanston Now filed a freedom of information request this morning seeking to learn the number of citations issued for leaf blower ordinance violations.

Given the typically short duration of leaf-blower use, it’s proven difficult in the past for police to respond to complaints in time to catch a violator in the act. It was not immediately clear how the manager’s “targeted enforcement” campaign would address that issue. 

The backpack-mounted gasoline-powered leaf blowers are singled out in the ordinance ostensibly because their two-cycle gas engines are more polluting than the four-cycle engines used for wheeled gasoline-powered leaf blowers and because they are reputedly more noisy than electric ones.

Bobkiewicz said city staff has not researched industry claims that updates to the technology used in designing the leaf blowers has significantly reduced the noise newer models generate. Evanston reportedly is one of only four communities in Illinois that limit the use of leaf blowers.

Related story

New leaf blower ordinance would target property owners

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Leaf blower ordinance changes & enforcement
    A solution to the leaf blower issue (and many other issues) would be for the City and ETHS to design and implement a yard maintenance training program. Such a training program would include a variety of “green” techniques, including soil conservation, less fossil fuel consumption, being a good neighbor, etc. It could also include other property maintenance skills, such as fence installation, etc. All of these are basic skills that can be used to build a variety of careers.

    I believe that Evanston is filled with gardeners, landscapers, property maintenance people, designers, etc., who would be glad to help put a curriculum together, identify seed funding, and identify clients who would want to use such a “homegrown” service. I for one would be happy to be part of an initial conversation.

    Debbie Hillman
    Semi-retired gardener and public policy strategist

  2. Is the issue noise, emissions
    Is the issue noise, emissions, or using power tools instead of manual labor.

    Noise then limit hours of operation.
    Emissions then require all equipment to be 4-cycle or electric.
    Power tools vs. manual labor: Snowblowers vs shovels, leaf blower vs rakes and gas lawn mowers vs push real mowers.

    For all of these besides focusing on the able body resident will need to consider those impact on residents with disabilites and the equipment used the city, parks departmnet and on commerical properties.

    1. Leaf Blower Ordinance
      I was always under the impression that this was an issue of emissions, else why allow electric leaf blowers? It is actually because of this law that my family only owns electrically powered equipment for our yard… a leaf blower and a lawn mower. Also, we recognize that gas powered lawn tools create A LOT of emissions due to their lacking a catalytic converter. I would hope that we keep the environment in mind when considering this topic. Evanston is, after all, making an effort to be a “greener Evanston.”

      With regard to noise, do we not already have a noise ordinance in place for those moments when one neighbor might be out there at 6AM running his mower? Adding another layer is just setting us all up to be failures as humans. By all means, your neighbor is making noise, you should absolutely NOT talk to him/her about it. Pick up the phone and call the cops. Who needs communication among neighbors anyway?

      I refuse to believe we have all become so selfishly protective of our sleep that we prefer to jump on our neighbor for keeping the weeds at bay. Just a thought… those that rise at the crack of dawn are generally in bed early of a night…. while those who sleep in late are still up having their backyard party and making night noise. The point is, we all make concessions and that is what civilization is built upon. If you are going to be intolerant of noise generated by people living in the close quarters of our urban environment, you might want to consider a move to the country. People will always make noise and intolerant people are always going to get steamed about it. Intolerance just makes everyone miserable.

      1. Leaf Blowers, It’s the Decibels and Emissions

        Muneaux, I don't think you fully realize the difference in the decibel level of gas powered blowers vs electric. Gas powered blowers are substantially nosier than electric and are about the loudest machines used in landscaping. My neighbor doesn't keep his weeds at bay by himself. Instead he/she hires a service that uses whatever equipment it can to get the job done. This can mean running one or two blowers simultaneously, and in the fall sometimes three or four. I live on a block with 39 houses. One year I kept track and 30 of them used a professional lawncare service. Most homes get their property serviced once a week from April through November.  Each visit lasts 15 to 30 minutes depending on the time of year. That's at least 960 times a year multiple pieces of gas powered are operated on my block alone. Someone more knowledgeable than I am can estimate the amount of emissions this produces. I work from home and can tell you that during the growing season the middle of the week sounds like I'm living at the end of an O'Hare runway. I support any effort to control lawncare emissions, but at a minimum I hope we can at least enforce the leaf blower ban.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.