Tonight, the Council for the Township of Montclair voted 5-2 to significantly curtail the use of Internal Combustion Leaf Blowers (ICLBs). Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis shares his thoughts on what the new ordinance will mean for Montclair residents:
The action we have taken cuts the number of days per year that ICLBs can be used to 93 down from 168. The new permitted timeframes were determined based on peak abscission time in the autumn and an estimation of when snowmelt concludes, and spring clean-up begins in March. Additionally, as another measure of relief for residents, we’ve pushed back the start time from 8:00am to 9:00am on weekdays and from 9:00am to 10:00am on Saturdays (Sundays, which already have a start time of 10:00am remain untouched). Further, we introduced a new minimum fine of $100 per violation and required lawn care companies to provide safety protection for employees.
It is my hope that these changes will bring relief from the high-decibel noise and toxic emissions unique to these devices. Montclairions deserve a quieter and healthier community. I also understand that this will have an effect on the hours, methods and in some cases cost of operation for the landscaping companies who service our residents. I urge companies and customers to engage in dialogue regarding alternative service options to minimize cost pass-through to customers.
During my campaign for office, I ran on a platform that in part included being more engaged and responsive to the people. In my engagement with residents during the campaign and in this first year in office, no single issue came up more. I want to thank those residents for sharing their personal stories and the organization Quiet Montclair for educating me on how these machines were impacting health, wellness and our environment. I also want to thank my colleagues for the spirit of collaboration to iterate on many versions of this to arrive at what was passed tonight; in particular Mayor Spiller, Councilor Schlager and Councilor Price-Abrams and notably Councilor Russo for championing more significant restrictions and giving me the confidence that we could.
In the weeks ahead, I will join my colleagues in ensuring a budget allocation is made to educate the public on the changes we have made tonight. Additionally, with inspiration from our Civil Rights Commission, some of us have pledged to begin a process of reviewing existing violation and penalty language within both our expansive noise ordinance and broader code to identify opportunities where laws are perhaps outdated or penalties too harsh. Lastly, as a township we must look at phasing out these devices by our own workforce and step-up enforcement of this now strengthened law.
Overall, I still believe we must completely phase out these devices within the next couple of years. And it is my hope that the U.S. Department of Energy begins an effort to regulate these and other devices, similar to the approach taken with household appliances. The research on the polluting factors of ICLBs is simply stunning and we need a whole of government approach to incentivize the shift to cleaner and more efficient ones, especially as the technology exponentially improves.