Petition Submitted for Special Town Meeting on Seasonal Leaf-Blower Ban

The day after the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed to establish a committee to review the ban, a Town Meeting member took matters into his own hands.

A Town Meeting member submitted a petition to the town Tuesday to call a Special Town Meeting regarding Arlington’s seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

Stephen Harrington, of Precinct 13, , said nearly 250 registered voters in Arlington signed his petition – only 200 signatures are needed to force a Special Town Meeting.


Do you support Harrington’s petition for a Special Town Meeting? Let us know by posting a comment below.


If Harrington’s petition is validated by the town, the Special Town Meeting would be the second attempt to repeal the ban, . A group of landscapers in May to force a Special Election. At the Special Election, which took place on July 19, opponents of the ban won the vote by a 2-to-1 margin but , as state law required them to get at least 5,780 “No” votes, which represented 20 percent of Arlington’s 28,898 registered voters.

In May, Selectman Steven Byrne urged opponents of the ban to submit a petition for a Special Town Meeting instead of a Special Election, as he saw it as the easier route and a much cheaper option.

If the petition goes through, the Board of Selectmen would have to call a Special Town Meeting within 45 days.

Leaf-Blower Committee

Harrington’s petition came a day after the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed to establish a committee to review the ban, which has yet to take effect (it’s pending the approval of the state attorney general’s office) and prohibits the leaf blowers on private property from May 15 to Oct. 15.

The committee, which was put forth by board chairman Kevin Greeley, was intended to look at implementing restrictions rather than an outright ban.

Greeley said he was planning to bring a warrant article, with the committee’s recommended restrictions, to a Special Town Meeting at the same time of the regularly-scheduled Town Meeting next April.

The committee, if it’s still a go, will consist of Selectman Diane Mahon, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Director of Health and Human Services Christine Connolly, four members from the landscapers group and four Town Meeting members. Greeley will serve as chairman of the committee, and Town Meeting members can apply to the committee by contacting Town Moderator John Leone.

joseph j santore August 29, 2012 at 02:11 PM
yes get rid of the ban. it is time for town meeting to get back to tending to town business not peoples pet peeves joe.s
Dg August 29, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I agree ban should be overturned I beleive the majority in the special vote have spoken. If you keep the ban lets ban 16 oz soft drinks along with sale of 16oz water bottles, yard fertilizers etc. get my drift.
Tim August 29, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Dg what will next you ask ? I will tell you Christmas light on private homes because it may offend someone or it may keep someone awake ... But before that I think lawn mowers will be banned .
Laurence O. McKinney August 29, 2012 at 06:22 PM
It's so painfully clear that the "friends of landscapers" are working overtime to provide the appearance of a vociferous majority. As a member of town meeting, I heard arguments on both sides for two years, the passing majority was not overwhelming. But now an organized and funded special interest group, sort of like the Koch Brothers of Arlington, is whining that normal noise restrictions are government intervention? You will notice not one single landscaper has published numbers to prove anything. Jobs? We need occupational diversity but as one ma and pa operated explained it "my kids want to work in computers ..". As a blare blankets the street, pushing people off their porches, I watch two burly men with huge machines slowly sashay about the Gibbs basketball court for an hour pushing tiny amounts of leaves into little rows in the time it takes me, over 65, to rake my back lawn. This is NO way to spend town money to make it so easy for strong men to walk instead of rake. Please... let's see the numbers,I don't believe they have any justification aside from their convenience and with contacts like that, they make enough from the town not to care. Peeve? Is there anyone at all out there who LIKES a leaf blower? It's just levels of irritation. If our landscapers want the convenience, they should buy me some ear protectors. They didn't even provide them for their own workers until I complained, in two cases, and took a few pictures. Shame on them.
Tony August 29, 2012 at 08:08 PM
I am undecided on whether I like this ban or not, and while I think that there could have been a more sensible solution to the leaf-blower problem, I do not see how the current "ban" would run any sound landscaping venture out of business. There are numerous options around this ban, including going electric, using other strategies to clean up hard surfaces, or even leaving clippings on hard surfaces during the summer months, where they typically shrivel to nothingness within a day or two. It is hard to believe that the need to invest in equipment that conforms to the rules, or to come up with other solutions to clean up hard surfaces, could possibly affect a landscaper's bottom line so dramatically that they could not do their job anymore because they would have to charge astronomically high prices. The change will be a challenge for some firms, particularly the very small ones, but to me the ban represents something closer to taking away a convenience than a real threat to any sound business venture. Other towns and counties have put such bans into place and I have not seen any numbers that would indicate that the landscaping industry was affected in any major way. Most residents seem to love it, though...
Tony August 29, 2012 at 08:21 PM
I don't understand this kind of argument. Almost every aspect of our lives is already regulated, and government has taken away a lot of personal freedoms much more fundamental than the ability to use a gas-powered blower all year round. And yet, we give up most of these freedoms without similarly strong reactions. What is so special about gas-powered leaf blowers? Who would even miss them if they were banned altogether?
Tim August 29, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Laurence O McKinney ?? Is this the same guy who a few years ago complained about the Fire Dept ? The same guy who was bugging a few selectmen a few years back ?
jlb August 29, 2012 at 08:59 PM
So why exactly is the Town Government *allowed* to use gas-powered blowers whenever they want? Why do they get to bow out of the ban?
Wind Dummy 25 August 29, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Wow if Laurence feels that way he is example of most of the problem...Mind your business. I think the State has your number Larry and does not need your whining reaching Coakly's desk. probably a huge frown and just kicked it back. Otherwise liked minded people like Larry would overwhelm their local and then the State folks. I'm sure they don't need this BS on there all ready full plates. talk about your waste of Town assets! Everyone with all this time on your hands think before you whine. People are trying to work. if you can't compromise, you need to step out.
inthegloaming August 29, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Please, let's leave absurdly hyperbolic slippery slope arguments -- "Sky is Falling! Cats and Dogs living together! Armageddon! What will they take next? Our guns?!?!?!" -- out of this. Sore losers, stop wasting everyone's time with revotes. One revote is enough. (No, I didn't vote, so again, I don't have a horse in this race.)
Wind Dummy 25 August 30, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Hey talk to the State now...They must be rubbing a divet in their foreheads on this one at Coakly HQ....Do you realize what this foolishness entails at all? They want nothing to do with this BS. That's the trouble with stuff like this, it just opens the weirdo door wide and all sorts of weirdos waltz in with obtuse punishing regulations that they believe are realistic. The reality is real working people are fed up. There is no more dough for frivolous expensive side shows. Compromise now or hit the bricks is the word from the State. Or would you like the SCJ to decide this one.
x August 30, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Why not double down the madness? Go the town of Concord one better... not only can landscapers not use gasoline leaf blowers, they cannot drink from water bottles less than one liter in size. That'll show'em. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
SteveM August 30, 2012 at 02:37 AM
As far as gas powered leaf blowers and whether they should be banned or not - honestly I don't care and don't see it as that big of a deal. However, what really got me a bit fired up was both the flyer sent to my house in opposition of the ban and the opinion piece that was posted on wickedlocal by the landscaping backers. This opinion piece (written by the president of the Arlington Landscape Association), in particular slammed apparent biased coverage. The quote was "But, my main reason for responding to this editorial is to let the people of Arlington know how unbalanced coverage of this situation has become." However, this same piece did not contain a single shred of compelling reasoning to overturn the ban - in fact, there are simply logical fallicies, propaganda with no evidence, and outright lies to invoke an emotion from people.The full article is at http://www.wickedlocal.com/arlington/archive/x1992163416?zc_p=0#axzz24zXk0Zmo I was going to quote each individual item from both the piece and the flyer but decided to name just two that really stuck out.
SteveM August 30, 2012 at 02:38 AM
1. In addition to most comments here, this quote was in the piece: "What’s next? Charcoal grills, gas lawn mowers, snow blowers, or possibly air conditioners?" This seems to be the most prevalent. It is called the slippery slope logical fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope). It is asinine to even suggest a ban on snow blowers or air conditioners. Unless maybe you are talking about snow blowers in the summer, or air conditioners in the winter. Ridiculous statement. 2. The flyer said, quote "$200" fine. Actually, a full 2 minutes of google searching found several quotes from town council members, as well as the official town bylaw that states: "Whoever violates any provision of these By-Laws shall, in cases not otherwise provided for, forfeit and pay for each offense a fine not exceeding twenty dollars ($20)." As I mentioned, I don't really care one way or another and I think the whole debate is silly. But if you are opposed, stop with the scare tactics, lies, and misrepresentations and have something relevant to say.
Wind Dummy 25 August 30, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Logic is thrown out the window on this one. You BAN power tools that allow human beings to stand upright and lessen the burdens, then you BAN citizens to make intelligent choices. Thus forcing them to their crippled knees eventually. We're not talking about some retired older guy with a floppy hat raking his leaves leisurely on a crisp fall day here. Property up keep is hard work, and expected also expensive, all year long for the average working stiff. Not all but many have to cheat. I have chosen do it myself, but there will come a day when I can't. That day will suck... If there is a more effective way then go for it and invent it. I bet you'll re-revolutionize the world. Then there wouldn't be a need for landscaping companies. Till then, "It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong." <Jeremy Bentham>
Bob C August 30, 2012 at 11:24 AM
I take alot of pride in keeping my property well maintained, I even clean the street gutters and clear the storm drains. Without the use of power equipement it would be impossible to do that. There are leaves falling NOW! Where did these people come up with the restricted dates? We have military members dying every day trying to give the freedom of choice and democracy to other countries and back home here in Arlington Ma. the home of Uncle Sam we are trying to take that freedom away.
Stephen August 30, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Hi SteveM, The relevant bylaw change for the leaf blower ban will be to Title 5, Article 12 Noise Abatement; see current bylaw here: http://www.arlingtonma.gov/Public_Documents/ArlingtonMA_TownBylaws/title5#article12 The ban would be placed in Section 3, and the penalties are defined in Section 5, copied below: "Section 5. Penalties. Any person violating any provision of this Article shall be subject to a fine of $200.00 for each offense and/or an action in a court of competent jurisdiction, seeking an order to cease and desist from such activity. Each day or part thereof if any violation continues shall constitute a separate offense." As you can see, the fine for violating the pending leaf blower ban is $200, not the catch-all $20 fine you reference, falling instead under the "in cases not otherwise provided for".
Stephen August 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Hi Laurence, I am not a landscaper, but I do maintain my own property. I am also not related to the Koch Brothers of Arlington, whoever they are. The discussion of the leaf blower ban has been framed by both Town Meeting and other elected officials as between landscapers and the Town. I am just one of many homeowners who will be adversely affected by this ban. Many vocal proponents live on postage-sized lots of less than 5,000 sq feet covered by the footprint of their dwelling with one or two trees; as you do. In Precinct 13, many lots are five times as large with dozens of trees. That is why Precinct 13 voted 84% to overturn the ban. As Town Meeting representatives, even if we live on the 8th floor of an apartment building, we need to consider all residents when banning common practices. Stephen Harrington
Wind Dummy 25 August 30, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Apparently that is lost on a few folks. I guess our people are that spoiled that they forget how they become so spoiled. I guarantee if anyone did a tour or two in some of the shit holes I operated in they wouldn't take this attitude. I'm not sure how this started, contractors have long days and quite busy around my area. However they don't crank up the tools till after 9am. I'm thinking this situation may have been triggered by neighbors. Usually the complaints stem from some guy with a new toy operating it on a Saturday Sunday morning or some other inappropriate time. Where I was they settle these things with a quick gun battle then they have tea. So it's very rare. Guns make good neighbors.
MountainView August 30, 2012 at 05:45 PM
We live in a democracy. The ban was voted on by Arlington voters. Now some people are trying to subvert the democratic process? People have lived without leaf-blowers for centuries. There's no reason to be spewing noxious fumes and spreading noise pollution with these stupid leaf-blowers.
Bob C August 30, 2012 at 07:25 PM
People lived in caves and huts, there were no washing machines or cars or trains What is your point? In the special election it was clear by a 2 to 1 margin the majority of the citizens of Arlington were not fairly represented by the personal opinion of the town meeting members in their vote. Unless you are walking side by side with the leaf blower and have your nose against the exhaust port I doubt you will notice noxious fumes .As for the noise, have you listened to or seen a generator operate? Electric leaf blowers will need power and most if not all landscapers will need to run generators to power them. It will take longer and create MORE noise and fumes, I have a snowblower and I have a shovel. Sometimes I like to shovel when it is light and fluffy , but it is my choice to do so. What happens when a group of people decide they do not like snowblowers? Do they vote them out? The real point here is that as homeowners and taxpayers we should be allowed to choose what works best for us and how and when we use it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if you do not like stupid leaf blowers that is ok, you may not like the color of your neighbors house either BUT it is HIS house and HIS right to paint it whatever color he likes. He pays the taxes on it !
inthegloaming August 30, 2012 at 09:54 PM
It seems that everyone is "entitled to their opinion" as long as it agrees with yours. Sure, people have the legal "right" to be Massholes to their neighbors. But in legalities, and in votes, the majority rules. And if MORE of your neighbors don't want snowblowers or X or Y, then they vote and that's that. More people are satisfied, less not so much. Sore losers can keep claiming that the town meeting members' votes did not fairly represent the majority of the citizens, but that doesn't make it true. I wanted to paint my entire house purple. Others have. But my neighbors expressed dismay, so I didn't, I compromised on another color I like, if not as much, that they can live with looking at out their windows. I wish they'd been as cooperative when they painted their house a disgusting color I have to look at. Or if they'd take their kids to the nearby playgrounds (or even keep them in their own backyards) instead of letting them scream up and down the street under my windows. Again, I have no opinion one way or the other on the leafblower noise issue, if only because I've been lucky enough not to be harrassed by such. But if enough people are, well, as you say, we all have the "right" -- to vote. And since when doesn't the majority rule?
Some Girl August 31, 2012 at 02:32 AM
How much will a "Special Town Meeting" cost the taxpayers? The movement to reverse Town Meeting's decision is getting more expense by the day. And if the Town Meeting decision stands, is someone going to go out and get another 200 signatures (which probably isn't very difficult to do) and call yet another Special Town Meeting until he gets his way? When does this all stop? Isn't regular Town Meeting just another 9 months away? Can't this issue be tabled until then?
Wind Dummy 25 August 31, 2012 at 03:04 AM
The State said compromise on this...What's cheaper than that...We know the ban is idiotic. It was trampled on the town vote. It probably would have been even more of a slam if it was voted on in November. The side issue is the town members voting as a block and not in the interest of the citizens. That is pure data. To say that this was a fair deal is repugnant. Compromise tomorrow or throw more money away on another ridiculous one vote ballot. Or wait for November and get the whole thing squashed. Myself I can't wait for November. Get a ton of things fixed.
SteveM August 31, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Stephen - I appreciate the clarification on the amount of the fine. Your explanation seems sound...I assume you are 100% sure? The information I was going on that led me to the particular bylaw (that I pasted) was this quote: "The fines associated with violating one of the town’s bylaws cannot exceed $20 unless otherwise stated, Town Counsel Juliana Rice said last session from the last paragraph of article: http://www.ccblincoln.com/CCBL/Towns/ArlingtonMA.html I assume then that either Ms. Rice was mistaken or her statement was taken from a separate interview and applied incorrectly. -Steve
Author E J Sankey September 13, 2012 at 04:48 PM
PLEASE PLEASE BAN GAS POWERED LEAF BLOWERS!!!! I would like to walk outside and have a nice pleasant peaceful walk..... I pay taxes and should have the right to not hear the landscapers in the neighborhood!!!!
Ron September 14, 2012 at 01:02 AM
If you live in Arlington you live within 5 miles of a the capital of Massachusetts, inside the 128 and 15 miles from the 495 on Rte 2. Major highways that will bring you to any part of New England in no time. I you would like to walk outside and have a nice peaceful walk move to Maine. You'll find all the quiet paths you need just outside your door but know that they use Gas powered everything there.
Wind Dummy 25 September 14, 2012 at 01:54 AM
And yet some don't get this Ron? We live in a pretty bustling tiny piece in this world. Find your peace where & when you can. If you have a ton of time on your hands, this may not be the place to be. Everyone I know dreads fall & winter chores. Huge disruption to the flow. I do it but I'm not getting younger or less busy. I love a snow blower when there's 18" and I need to go. I also loath 18" of leaves in November. But put my time and back into it. Rather not, but do it because I hate floods. Most of my neighbors do also. Some can't anymore and have to hire help. For me its quiet evenings on the porch like now. If my neighbor began working a backhoe at this time I'd be pissed. However I'd get with him and see what's up. If a contractor was dusting my tomatoes with yard dirt, I'd be pissed...I'd get with my neighbor and see whats up. Work it without involving the entire town please. If my neighbors a jerk, well that's tough and why we have rules. Call the heat for the jerks and the 0 cooperatives. They don't like it either but that's what they do. Utopia is not a town in Maine or Misseschusetts.
Stephen September 14, 2012 at 03:11 AM
I thought you all might like to know that the $3,000 Arlington Public School kindergarten fee for 2012 will be refunded and that the Arlington Public Schools will be offering free, full day kindergarten going forward. The reason for this was the work done by school committee member Bill Hayner, the parents on the Kindergarten Advisory Committee he led and special thanks to parent Ruthellyn Jacob. Apparently, Ruthellyn investigated other school districts, including Melrose, that had eliminated the FDK fees through increased Chapter 70 (state) funding. Of course, the school committee voted to end the fee, but actually it has no authority to change the amount of total funding it spends. First the Finance Committee voted to recommend approval of moving money from the override stabilization fund (Wednesday night) and it is the sole responsibility of Town Meeting to actually appropriate the money for this year, monies that will be covered through increased Chapter 70 funding from the state on an ongoing basis. Without the Special Town Meeting scheduled for October 10 and voted on by the Board of Selectmen on Monday (where all board members expressed their displeasure at calling such a meeting), the $3,000 refunds for more than 400 families would not have been available this year. And some people whined about the $5,000 cost of the Special Town Meeting.
Fred Gevalt September 15, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Well..........you can call it a democratic process if you like, Michelle. The fact remains that a lot of taxpaying prospective parties to the process weren't notified because of the timing of the warrant distribution (vacation anyone?), and the day the vote was taken the polls were open during a suspiciously restricted time frame compared with most Arlington votes. I've lived here for eighteen years and also noticed that whenever there's a need to push through a previously unsuccessful tax override, your side of the aisle never seems to mind a "revote," even an unpublicized one. So revotes happen, particularly when they are taken to overturn statutes whose origins can be traced to despotic minorities. As you said - we live in a democracy. If people have problems with their neighbors, they should be straightforward enough to just go talk with them about it, and not so timid or lazy that they have to depend on the Town of Arlington. Fred Gevalt


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