Opting for the broom and rake, Arlington Town Meeting put its mark on yard work Monday by banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the town during five months of the year.
By a close vote of 95 to 85, the members of the town’s legislative body voted to ban the use of the leaf blowers from May 15 to Oct. 15 of each year.
“Ten minutes with a rake is very therapeutic for the mind soul and body,” said Town Meeting member Bob Radochia.
Radochia’s proposal to ban the leaf blowers for five months a year was substituted for a proposal by Town Meeting member Carol Band that would have done away with the equipment year round.
Residents behind the push for a ban cited noise caused by leaf blowers along with the dust they kick up.
The vote on the leaf blower ban was so close that when it came up for a voice vote, Town Moderator John Leone thought it failed. But when a standing count of the vote was then taken, the measure had passed.
Similar proposals have already been struck down this year in Wellesley and Marblehead. Last year, Brookline banned leaf blowers in the summer and winter months, but they can be used by the town for park and street maintenance and landowners can use them if they have more than five acres to tend.
Opponents to the ban in Arlington included Town Meeting member Maria Romano, who said “this is America the free, home of the gas blower” and the town should not interfere with the choices people have to clean their property.
She said the effort to ban the leaf blowers was extremism at its worst and proponents of the ban were trying to scare people about the dust and particles kicked up by the devices.
“I think it is a little overkill,” she said.
Romano said if the noise of the leaf blowers is too loud, then the town already has noise laws on the books to quiet them.
Christine Connolly, the town’s health and human Services director, said the noise limit for leaf blowers in the town is 85 decibels. She said the town’s Board of Health did not discuss the leaf blower ban because the Arlington Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 that Town Meeting should take no action on the proposal.
“If the Board of Health thought leaf blowers were a public health threat, they obviously would take this up,” Connolly said.
Radochia said that while the leaf blowers are no louder than lawn mowers or weed whackers, they do cause too much dirt and debris to be kicked up and into other people’s property.
A ban on the leaf blowers in late spring, summer and early fall would not prevent them from being used when most of the leaves are on the ground, he said.
Arlington Town Counsel Juliana Rice said the fine for violating the ban will be $200 for each day that a violation occurs. The ban will only be in effect on private property, but Rice said it likely won’t kick in this year because the bylaw change must be approved by the state attorney general’s office and must then be advertised.