Leaf blowers under fire in new PB ordinance - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Leaf blowers under fire in new PB ordinance

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Story Video: Click here

Only on Palm Beach would there be a debate on how to keep the town tidy.

Neighbors are butting heads with town leaders over leaf blowers and the noise they make. It's an ongoing battle that started years ago and is starting to take more shape this month.

On Tuesday, the town council considered banning leaf blowers, only to change their minds after hearing another set of complaints.

"I want us to find a compromise here today," said Mayor Gail Conglio. "Moving forward today and not continuing to kick it another 5 or 10 years down the road."

"The worst noise in this town...is the airplanes," said Bruce Toll.

Town leaders says the ordinance was the result of years of complaints.

"I'm telling you, you can't hear yourself think. It's everywhere. And we've heard these complaints," said councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay.

"There's a definite problem here...And it hasn't been rectified," said longtime Palm Beach resident, Lou Gyott.

The idea of a ban didn't sit well with condo owners and other neighbors.

"Where I would have to hire more employees at a cost of $75,000 to the condominium association," said John Grosskopf, who manages Palm Beach Towers.

So after a lengthy debate, town leaders will now vote to ban gas powered blowers, restricting companies to using electric.

But businesses owners like Kurt Carlson say the move -- is outrageous. Each electric blower costs $4,000 a piece and landscapers will have to pass the costs down to all of their clients.

"It's a huge financial burden on any company, especially the small companies," he said.

Checking around Palm Beach, most companies use gas. Workers told me these blowers operate within 65 decibels. A spokesperson for STHL, the company behind most of the blowers used on Palm Beach, says improvements have been made to make gas models safer and quieter.

"Many of the new products are well below what the new EPA standards are," Michael Surrena, district manager for STHL southeast. "A lot of controversy over whether blowers are dangerous healthwise and so forth like that, I don't think I've seen any real conclusive studies that say for a fact they are."

Kurt Carlson, who works for Armstrong Landscape Group, says he believes the town is not checking their facts. If the new ordinance passes, he says businesses could lose thousands.

"And we have to be able to plug into the home, every day because these battery packs only last an hour and 30 minutes. Which means multiple battery packs. Those battery packs are $850 a piece," he said.

He has two blowers per crew, with over seven crews working on the island. At $4,000 per blower total including batteries, that's $56,000 down the drain.

"If you're a small mom and pop, a handheld low noise blower goes for $279 retail price. We're talking going from $279 to $2,700? It's a huge increase."

"This is gonna hurt our business very much so and it's an expense that's gonna be passed on to the residents," said Art Fink with AMF Landscaping.

There are limits to the ordinance. Properties greater than one acre are exempt from the gas powered ban but many of the landscaping clients don't fit within that exemption.

Palm Beach code enforcement and police representatives expressed during the meeting that they've paid overtime in the past to enforce the decibel ordinance. They expressed that they do not have enough resources to as is to check every leaf blower if the new ordinance passes.

The town will make a final vote at next month's council meeting.
 

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