Sonoma ban on gas-powered leaf blowers clears hurdle

Sonoma edged closer Monday night to becoming the first city in the county, and one of the few in the nation, to ban gas-powered leaf blowers.

The Sonoma City Council, on a 3-2 vote, passed the first reading of an ordinance that bans blowers that are powered with an internal combustion engine. Barring any changes, the ordinance will be adopted at the council's Oct. 21 meeting and take effect Jan. 1.

Mayor Ken Brown and council members Steve Barbose and Laurie Gallian supported the ban. Council members Tom Rouse and David Cook were opposed.

Cook and Rouse advocated for taking the issue to a ballot to let the city's voters decide the outcome.

Barbose, however, was concerned the ordinance does not go far enough, saying use of electric leaf blowers, which still will be allowed in Sonoma, won't necessarily address concerns about air and noise pollution.

He said other communities that have enacted total bans have not encountered "dire consequences" as a result of taking that action.

Barbose asked that the ordinance be specifically worded to ban blowers using an internal combustion engine, so that it encompasses devices that run on fuels other than gas.

He also got the council majority to go along with a ban on diesel generators that can be used to power electric leaf blowers, the argument being that the generators can be just as annoying as the sound of a gas-powered leaf blower.

The council's action followed a lengthy and at times heated public hearing in which the rhetoric was turned up high.

Sonoma resident Allen Olinger characterized supporters of the ban as an uncompromising minority that are attempting to inflict their will on the entire city.

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