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A proposed revision to Evanston’s leaf blower ordinance up for debate by aldermen tonight would let police ticket property owners for leaf blower use by their landscape contractors.

The current ordinance bans only “the use” of backpack mounted or handheld gasoline-powered leaf blowers at certain times of year.

The proposed ordinance would subject “any person who uses” or “any person who permits the private or commercial use” of such leaf blowers on their property to a fine.

The proposed ordinance also raises the fine for a violation from $75 to $100, and it slightly shortens the period in which the use of the leaf blowers is allowed, so that instead of the fall period ending on Dec. 14, it would end on the first Thursday in December.

Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar says that last change is designed to “more accurately coincide with the closure of compost facilities.”

The proposed ordinance would drop the current requirement that landscapers obtain a permit from the city manager for commercial leaf blower use on Sundays.

This leaf blower is never illegal in Evanston.

Neither the current nor the proposed ordinances restrict use of electric-powered leaf blowers or wheeled walk-behind gas-powered leaf blowers.

In 2011 city staff proposed dramatically expanding the leaf blower ordinance to also ban the electric models most commonly used by consumers and raise the maximum fine to $375. But aldermen on the Administration and Public Works Committee voted unanimously to reject that proposal.

Another proposal, later that year, to ban leaf blower use on Thanksgiving day was also rejected.

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.


Update 2:55 p.m. 3/9/15: City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, in response to a question from Evanston Now, says the city received 63 complaints regarding leaf blower use to its 311 service last year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. Yes! Please issue citations!!

    Yes! Please issue citations!!! The current ordinance is toothless and every day landscaping companies are using these in our neighborhood.  Many employ them during the off-season as well, and they really are a quality of life issue.

  2. Hate leafblowers

    I live near a few condo buildings whose crews use these incredibly obnoxious backpack blowers all year. They are super noisy! And they usually just end up blowing their yard waste into my yard. What happened to good old fashioned brooms and shovels?

  3. Yes!, fine homeowners for leaf blower violations

    I will be surprised if this proposal passes and dumbfounded if it's ever enforced. I'm still in shock from the fact that the City enforced the requirement that residents shovel their sidewalks.

    Evanston prides itself on being progressive on the environment, but whenever an ordinance makes life difficult for well-to-do residents, it's tabled. That's what happened with the plan to ban blowers completely and the simple request that blowers be banned on Thanksgiving.

    If you can afford a landscaping service, you can afford to have them perform their work in an environmentally sound manner. The City should go much further. It should require all landscapers to use only zero-emission equipment and it should tax their services.

    Requiring that our yards and gardens be tended by others to look like the grounds at Versailles is a first-world problem. If this is really what residents want they should have the work done with no fossil fuel powered equipment of any kind. 

  4. Any citations issued?

    In addition to noise pollution, the American Lung Association points out there are other problems with gas powered leaf blowers such as particulate matter like ozone and carbon monoxide, etc that can cause respiratory problems. It's my understanding that asthma in our community is a concern, especially for children. Oh, and the emissions from one gas powered leaf blower equal about the same as 17 cars running. My question remains, of the 63 calls to report them last year, how many citations were issued? Unless there is a system in place to follow up, what's the incentive to comply?

    1. Method of enforcement

      Chris, very few citations are issued because violators are never caught in the act. That's a problem. Last year was the first year that landscapers were required to get a general business license from the city. These licenses should be revoked if the company violates the blower ban too many (2 or 3?) times. If the city has a record of the license plate numbers of authorized vendors, then the police or parking enforcement should be able to use the license plate scanners we paid for to discover landscapers working without a legitimate business license. I believe there is a $500 per day fine for operating without a business license. Residents can help document a violation by taking a picture of the infraction and submitting it to the 311 center via their computer or smart phone (there's an app for that!).

  5. Yes, about time!
    We have been asking our alder person to help reduce the terrible air pollution from these machines for years. My family can’t even have lunch in our backyard in the summer without being fumed out by all the landscapers in our yard. They even disturb us on Saturday afternoons. The current ban is useless and the City seems unable or unwilling to enforce the ban. I agree, please fix it!

    Why not have the department responsible for issuing parking tickets issue tickets for leaf blowers?

    And all this noise and air pollution would only result in a 20% increase in landscaping costs? I agree, if you can afford a landscaper, than you should have the courtesy to respect your neighbors (especially the kids playing outdoors) and have it done with the neighborhood around in mind.

    Mayor and alder persons, please support these revisions to the ban.

    1. Landscapers

      If you don't want your landscapers to use leaf blowers on your yard, tell them. If they continue to do so, fire them. Lots of landscapers out there looking for work.

  6. New Leaf Blower ordinance

    If you are wealthy you can afford to have your yardcare people take longer to do your yard, have them use a broom. But for seniors on a limited income, that's problematic. The primary complaint seems to be noise, but most blowers aren't as loud as commercial lawn mowers. The yardcare poeple with their commercial-quality equipment are here and gone 15 minutes when it used to take me two hours to do my yard with nearly as much noise. The ordinance doesn't make sense, nor is it fair.

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