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Sebastopol should work with gardeners before banning leaf-blowers

  • Santa Rosa city worker Matt Rapisardo (cq) clears a leaf-covered sidewalk along Summerfield Road with a blower on Tuesday afternoon, October 25, 2005. (The Press Democrat/ Christopher Chung)

If it?s autumn, it must be time to argue about leaf blowers.

But the city of Sebastopol is taking the debate one step further this year. The City Council is considering whether Sebastopol should become the first community in Sonoma County to ban the machines outright.

City Councilman Guy Wilson asked for the issue to be put on the council?s agenda last week in response to complaints from Sebastopol residents. He wants the city to explore going the route of communities such as Mill Valley, Berkeley and Palo Alto, which have bans on gasoline-powered leafblowers.

Thankfully, he and others on the City Council don?t appear to be in a rush to approve an outright ban anytime soon.

While it?s hard to justify the noise generated by these contraptions ? particularly to those who work nights or are trying to put their children down for a nap ? a ban would likely generate more ill will, and more unintended consequences, than necessary.

For example, as Public Works Director Richard Emig told the council last week, city workers themselves use gas-powered leaf-blowers, three of them to be exact, to clear walkways and parking lots of leaves. The city would need to evaluate the financial impacts of requiring these workers to shift to rakes or some less-obnoxious equipment.

In addition, if it?s strictly a noise issue, the City Council needs to figure out how it would justify banning leaf-blowers but not power lawn mowers or other loud equipment.

More important, the city should hear more from landscapers, gardeners and others who depend on leafblowers for their livelihood. Taking away such a tool in this down economy could be a back-breaker for some of them.

Instead of enacting a ban, the City Council would be better off appointing a committee of local gardening professionals to work with staff in the development of guidelines for the safe and sane use of leafblowers.

Right now, the city doesn?t even limit their hours of operation. That sounds like a good place to start.


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