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Sonoma City Council to revisit leaf blower restrictions

It's the issue that won't be swept away in Sonoma.

Two years after city leaders achieved what they thought was a compromise on the combustible topic of gas-powered leaf blowers, the issue returns Wednesday night to the Sonoma City Council, which could further restrict the noisy devices.

Faced with calls to ban leaf blowers, the council in 2011 unanimously approved new restrictions on their use, including a prohibition on Sundays and during all city-observed holidays. The maximum noise level also was reduced from 90 decibles to 70.

But a group of residents, led by France Street resident Darryl Ponicsan, contend the rules didn't go far enough, and they are again lobbying the council for an outright ban. The group circulated a petition that as of last week had gathered 58 signatures, including those of 14 people who live outside city limits.

In a December letter to the city, Ponicsan referred to gas-powered leaf blowers as "dust bazookas" and compared those who have a financial stake in their sale and use to the cigarette lobby.

He said a ban won't drive up costs for professional landscapers and result in layoffs, nor increase the amount of time it takes to remove debris.

"I am 75 years old and not in the best of health, and I have challenged leaf blower operators, telling them that I can rake the leaves into a pile faster than they can blow them. No one has ever taken me up on it," Ponicsan wrote.

Councilman David Cook, who was not in office when the council approved the new regulations, said he's "surprised" by the number of complaints he receives about leaf blowers. Cook, who owns a vineyard management company, said his employees don't use blowers.

Cook and Councilman Steve Barbose asked for the issue to be placed on Wednesday night's council agenda.

"I just want to open up the discussion and see if we need to do further restrictions," Cook said. "Do we need to go to a ban?"

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