A Blow by Blow Arlington Leaf Blower History:
2008 Town Meeting
The first attempt to regulate leaf blowers came in the 2008 Annual Town Meeting.
Article 25, a 10 registered voter warrant article (Carol Band was the lead proponent), was supported unanimously with a recommended vote by the Board of Selectmen. Their recommendation:
The Board supports a favorable recommendation under this article submitted by 10 registered voters. The Board agrees with the proponents that the utilization of leave blowers, if not regulated, will continue to cause considerable excessive noise in many neighborhoods in the Town. The Board is grateful to the Noise Abatement Study Committee for their assistance in fashioning a new bylaw. The Committee looked to several other communities as to the manner in which those communities regulate leaf blowers. The Board recommends favorable action.
The Selectmen proposed a bylaw amendment that would have prohibited the use of leaf blowers on Sundays and Legal Holidays. It would have restricted their use to the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays. The bylaw would have prohibited the use of leaf blowers louder that 65 dB(A) measured at a distance of 50 feet.
When the article came up for debate, the Selectmen changed their recommendation and presented an amendment to change weekend hours so that leaf blowers would be permitted on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m.
Carol Band offered an amendment to ban gasoline powered leaf blowers, requiring the use of electric machines.
John Worden offered an amendment to change the weekday start time from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
The Worden and Band amendments were defeated by voice vote. The Selectmen’s amendment was approved by a 77-76 standing vote. The amended motion failed on a 72-97 voice vote.
Dan Dunn, Session 3
Dan Dunn, Session 4:
Town of Arlington, 2008 Town Meeting:
2012 Town Meeting
The next attempt to regulate leaf blowers came in the 2012 Annual Town Meeting.
Article 25 was a 10 registered voter warrant article (Carol Band was the lead proponent). Proponents did not make a presentation to the Board of Selectmen, and the board recommended no action under the article.
Carol Band offered a substitute motion to ban the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers. Bob Radochia offered a different substitute motion, which he described as a compromise, to prohibit the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers from May 15 to October 15, permitting them during the time of the year when there are leaves that need to be cleared from Arlington properties.
Town Meeting rejected the Band substitute by voice vote, approved the Radochia substitute 84-81 and enacted the bylaw as substituted 95-85.
Dan Dunn, Session 6:
Dan Dunn, Session 7:
2012 Referendum: Landscapers force a vote on the new bylaw
Massachusetts law (MGL Chapter 43A, Section 10) offers voters the opportunity to challenge a Representative Town Meeting vote by requesting a referendum. State law allows 3% of the registered voters of a town to call for a referendum. In 2012, petitioners were required to submit 864 signatures; the landscapers collected and submitted 1,053 certified signatures.
The landscapers organized a ballot committee, Arlington Landscape and Business Owners Association, which raised $12,750 for an aggressive campaign. They had a huge task ahead of them. In order to overturn the Town Meeting vote, they needed 20% of the voters to cast a NO vote in a special election where the polls were open from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. State law requires a referendum to be scheduled “forthwith,” and the Board of Selectmen scheduled the referendum for July 19.
While the Arlington Landscape and Business Owners Association actively encouraged absentee voting, and spread posters and lawn signs around the town, the proponents of the bylaw made a tactical decision to downplay the vote. They didn’t want a YES campaign to grab the attention of voters against the bylaw, drawing them out to vote.
There are two interesting YourArlington articles published prior to the leaf-blower referendum:
The Arlington Landscape and Business Owners Association filed two financial disclosure statements, listing
Financial disclosures for Arlington Landscape and Business Owners
8 days before election $11,225 total receipts:
30 days after election – $1,500 total receipts
The votes are in
At the time of the referendum, there were 28,898 registered voters in Arlington. 5,780 NO votes were required to reject the vote of Town Meeting. The July 19 referendum results:
YES (Supporting the vote of Town Meeting): 2,619 (32.1%)
NO (Rejecting the vote of Town Meeting): 5,539 (67.9%)
The NO votes were 241 votes short of the requirement under state law.
Second attempt at repeal: A Special Town Meeting
Soon after the effort to repeal the bylaw by referendum was unsuccessful, Stephen Harrington, exercised his rights to call a Special Town Meeting under MGL Chapter 39 Section 10 – by submitting 200 signatures to the Select Board. The selectmen were less than enthused by the need to call the Special Town Meeting, which they scheduled for October 10.
There was a rare Roll Call Vote on Article 3 of the Special Town Meeting, which voted to reject a substitute motion by Stephen Harrington (95-110) to repeal the leaf blower bylaw. It is interesting to note the votes of current TMMs who were in Town Meeting in 2012.
Town Meeting approved the Board of Selectmen’s recommendation to create a leaf blower committee, for the purpose of crafting an additional compromise. Committee membership was to consist of four members of the Arlington Landscape Association, four Town Meeting members, four Arlington residents and one selectman.
YourArlington describes the meeting:
The Leaf Blower Committee reports to the 2013 Town Meeting
The Board of Selectmen scheduled a Special Town Meeting for the Leaf Blower article, as they didn’t want to wait until the end of the Annual Town Meeting for the vote to take effect. The new bylaw eliminated the summer ban on leaf blowers, replacing it with a ban on their use on Sundays.
Christian Klein wrote about the compromise bylaw presented by the leaf blower committee:
It appears that the compromise committee that was put into effect after last fall’s special meeting was sharply divided between the landscaping representatives and the restriction proponents. My opinion from reading the proposal and listening to the presentations was that the “compromise” was very heavily weighted towards the opponents of the restrictions. As one member pointed out, going from 150 days without blowers to only 15 isn’t meeting in the middle.
Leaf Blower Committee member Michael Ruderman was quoted by Dan Dunn as giving a “minority opinion of one. Ruderman said the committee “was driven by people with a financial interest, and not enough input from non-landscaper experts.”
Town Meeting approved the recommended vote of the Leaf Blower Committee, 113-95. The current bylaw is the result of this vote.