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Longboat Key Monday, Mar. 8, 2021 1 year ago

Longboat Key considers banning gas leaf blowers

An ordinance is not drafted yet, but town staff is looking into the possibility.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The town of Longboat Key is considering the potential of banning gasoline-powered leaf blowers.

Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons sent town commissioners a preliminary memo about it earlier this month. Parsons and his staff have yet to draft a proposed ordinance.

“The next steps for staff, prior to further updating the Commission, is to do additional research on experience in other communities and to reach out to landscape contractors for their feedback,” Parsons wrote in an email to the Longboat Observer. “At this point, there are no recommendations from staff.”

During the Jan. 19 Town Commission workshop meeting, Commissioner George Spoll brought up the possibility of phasing out the gas leaf blowers. Spoll explained why he made the suggestion.

“There are discussion groups that take place at [the] Paradise Center in the Town Center, and very often they meet outdoors, and when these machines come flying through, they really destroy the ability of the group to hear, which just brought to mind, generally, the fact that this a problem that people are constantly complaining about,” Spoll said. “So, I took it upon myself to suggest that we look at an ordinance.”

Spoll pointed to how other Florida municipalities had ordinances that either prohibit or regulate the use of gas leaf blowers. That list includes Naples, Palm Beach and Sanibel.

“I understand that this is something that, in all fairness, should not be put in as an instantaneous ordinance, but that it should be phased in so that those that use and have investments in existing equipment would have a fair amount of time in order to be able to switch to the quiet electric blowers,” Spoll said.

Spoll also said people who use electric leaf blowers were more considerate to their neighbors.

Parsons wrote in his memo about common concerns people raised in municipalities that changed their ordinances to address leaf blower noise. It included effectiveness, limiting choice and cost impacts.

“Professional landscapers tended to be concerned that prohibiting gasoline-powered leaf blowers would increase their costs and that those costs would be passed along to customers,” Parsons wrote. “Homeowners tended to be concerned with additional costs to replace already purchased equipment.”

Longboat Key’s current ordinances do not specify a maximum decibel level for leaf blowers. For example, the city of Naples has a maximum decibel level of 65 dBA, which is shown on a manufacturer’s label on the leaf blower.

However, the town’s current regulations prohibit outdoor usage of “domestic power tools” between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. Specifically, Chapter 130 of the town’s code of ordinances prohibits:

“Operating or permitting the operation of any mechanically powered saw, jack hammer, drill, grinder, lathe, sander, planer, nail gun, tree, lawn or garden tool, or similar tool between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., unless such equipment is operating inside a completely enclosed structure.”

The prohibition applies to residential properties, not commercial properties.

Commercial properties are otherwise regulated under the prohibition of “unreasonable sound,” which the town defines as the following:

“Any sound which is excessive, unnecessary, or unusually loud so that it annoys, disturbs, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of a reasonable person of normal sensibilities.”

Longboat Key staff plans to continue to research communities with leaf blower restrictions and ask landscaping contractors for their input. Eventually, Parsons or a member of his staff plans to present their findings to the Town Commission.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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