Gas powered leaf blowers were sputtering along on life support following Tuesday’s election, with the Measure V referendum on the gaseous landscape tools narrowly ahead by 0.8 percent.
Sonomans were weighing in one final time Nov. 8 to decide whether the city should uphold its City Council-approved ban on gas-powered leaf blowers – and further restrict the hours of usage for electric and battery blowers – within the city limits.
At the close of election day, Measure V was ahead by a total of 40 votes. However, more than 6,000 mail-in and provisional ballots have yet to be counted, according to officials from the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters – hundreds of which could be from Sonoma. As it stands, there are 2,317 votes to uphold the ban on gas blowers; 2,277 against. The final certification of the results is Dec. 6.
No matter how the vote is finally weighted, few on either side of the issue deny looking forward to the day when they can put the often contentious leaf-blower saga behind them. The debate over how strictly to regulate leaf blowers in the city has blustered on for several years, as blower opponents say the machines are too loud, dusty and polluting, while leaf-blower users describe them as efficient landscaping tools no more loud or gas-emitting than other power tools like the common lawn mower.
The City Council’s been knee-deep in the Husqvarna hoopla since 2011, when the council imposed some restrictions on leaf blowers, including prohibition of their use on Sundays and during all city observed holidays. The maximum noise level was also reduced from 90 decibels to 70, but enforcement has been largely nonexistent. The council came close to banning them all together in 2013, but couldn’t muster a majority to make it happen.
Last March, the Council voted 3-2 to simply ban gas-powered leaf blowers, passing an ordinance which was set to go into effect July 1, a move that made it the first in Sonoma County to enact such a restriction. It exempted electric and battery-powered blowers.
However, a month later, opponents of the ban, led by insurgent businessman Jerry Marino, collected 995 valid signatures to force a referendum on the issue. The ban was suspended, and its fate headed toward the ballot in the form of Measure V.
Marino’s contention was that banning gas blowers is an unreasonable reaction to a minor inconvenience – and that the health impacts and air pollution claims of Measure V supporters are overblown.
Marino couldn’t be reached for comment on the narrow 40-vote advantage Measure V enjoys as the final ballots are being tallied.
Vocal leaf-blower critic Georgia Kelly, meanwhile, remains confident Measure V’s lead will hold. She says she’s “happy that the leaf blower issue is finally resolved.”
“Now that Sonoma citizens have given it their full support, we are ready to move on to other important issues,” said Kelly. “We are grateful to the Sonoma voters who used common sense in resolving this issue for our town. We can all breathe easier and enjoy quieter neighborhoods.”
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