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Sebastopol to ban leaf blowers

The Sebastopol City Council Tuesday night voted to ban leaf blowers, effective in about a year.

The action follows complaints by residents that leaf blowers spew pollution into the air and stir up dust that causes respiratory problems.

“This is raising the consciousness, getting the word out that leaf blowers are not welcome in Sebastopol,” Mayor Guy Wilson said. “For somebody who is suffering from their neighbor's use of the device, there will be a remedy.”

It will be the first such ban in Sonoma County.

The vote was 3-2 with Wilson, Vice Mayor Mike Kyes and Councilwoman Sarah Gurney supporting the ban and council members Patrick Slayter and Kathleen Shaffer opposing it.

The only exception to the ban would be for city public works employees in situations where other tools can't be used, such as cleaning out storm drains in an emergency.

A group called Sebastopol Peaceful Air Effort, composed primarily of Brookhaven School parents, complained that gas-engine leaf blowers are noisy, polluting and contribute to respiratory problems.

“This is not a fringe issue,” said Lauren Read. “This is an issue of the environment and human health.”

The City Council agreed, opting for a ban and rejecting calls for an ordinance similar to what the Sonoma City Council is considering, a measure that restricts when leaf blowers can be used and sets noise standards.

“I'd like to see days and hours restrictions, but not a complete ban,” said Shaffer, who said she was concerned about the effect on landscaping businesses and city workers.

“What difference does the time of day or the day of the week make? Either we do it or we don't,” Kyes said. “If we want to make the city a more healthy and peaceful place, then we should do it.”

The City Council first took up the issue of leaf blowers in November 2009. Gas-engine leaf blowers were singled out because of noise and pollution, although there also were concerns about the dust.

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