It’s not an outright ban, but the Sag Harbor Village Board this week adopted tough restrictions on the use of power leaf blowers that would include heavy fines for those caught using them outside an approved weekday time window.
“I’m thrilled beyond measure,” said Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, who has championed the measure, and who had to move from her screened porch back inside her house during a board Zoom meeting on June 24 because of the noise of a leaf blower being used at a neighboring property.
The new law will limit the use of any power leaf blowers, by residents and commercial landscapers alike, to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, year-round. Homeowners will be allowed to use blowers on their own property between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
Trustee Aidan Corish described the final law as a sensible compromise after the board first sought to ban gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months. Mr. Corish said the board realized that some gas blowers are not as noisy as electric blowers. Plus, he said, some residents do their own lawn work and need to use the equipment themselves.
“I think it’s a fair window,” he said. “We’ll see how this works. We didn’t get any complaints about it. Nobody said it was too onerous and nobody said it was too lax.”
Mr. Corish said leaf blowers topped the list of complaints he has fielded in the three years he has served on the board. “One of the things I keep hearing is “I go outside on a Saturday morning and I want to have a cup of coffee. The next thing you know, four guys with leaf blowers start working at the neighbors’ house,’” he said.
Those found guilty of violating the law could be fined up to $1,000 and/or sentenced to up to 15 days in jail.
Trustee Tom Gardella, who previously worried about the village overstepping by regulating leaf blowers, said it would be a matter of educating residents to let them know the village is concerned about noise pollution and asking they work with their landscapers to avoid violations
“I think this can resolve itself very easily with a little bit of social awareness and a little bit of neighborly consideration,” Mr. Corish said.
Trustee James Larocca described the law as “a very imperfect approach to noise regulation” because the village was ignoring other noisemakers, including chain saws, but Mr. Corish argued that saws are not run all the time as part of regular lawn maintenance.
As to the $1,000 fine, Mr. Larocca said when he served on the Planning Board, someone was fined only $250 for illegally demolishing a house.
“I think at some point we should recognize it’s four times more terrible to be running a leaf blower than it is to tear down a house,” he said.
But Trustee Bob Plumb said fines associated with building and zoning are set by the state.
“I agree with your example of $250 to tear down a house versus $1,000 for a leaf blower is absurd on its face,” he said. “However, we do have to start some place.”