The Sebastopol City Council Tuesday night stopped short of considering a ban on leaf blowers, but left open the possibility of restricting the hours that city residents and landscapers can use them.

"I just don't think we need a new ordinance; this can be incorporated into our noise ordinance," said Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer.

However, the issue is not completely dead. Shaffer will be on a committee with Mayor Guy Wilson to study whether the city should go farther and ban or severely restrict the commercial use of leaf flowers on large paved areas.

"I would just like to see a proposed ordinance that would require some maintenance other than blowing, maybe vacuuming or other technology," Wilson said.

The direction to staff was made after a three-hour public hearing, with the majority of the speakers opposing a ban, saying any complaints should be resolved by neighbors.

"We support the notion that to encourage responsible use of leaf blowers," said Dan Swedenborg. "Educate, don't legislate."

Jonathan Greenberg, co-founder of Sebastopol Peaceful Air Effort, called for a ban on commercial leaf blowers on environmental and health grounds while leaving residential leaf blowers unregulated.

"We are looking at (protecting) businesses too, businesses that try to provide tutoring or give music classes," Greenberg said.

Jim Stoops of Sebastopol also said that the dust blown by leaf blowers contains material that is hazardous to health.

However, with Vice Mayor Michael Kyes absent, there were not the three votes needed to authorize a study addressing the issue except as part of the noise ordinance.

It was a reversal for the council, which at its March meeting had asked city staff to come back with an ordinance banning leaf blowers.

An outpouring of opposition, however, came from many residents who said they were surprised by the decision, saying that it was not apparent from the agenda the council would be considering a ban.

"It was a surprise attack on us," said Martin Webb of Sebastopol.