Blast the Blowers

It is safe to say that few people like the sound of leaf blowers, unless, of course, they are in the property-care business, and then they sound like money. That conflict is at the core of a renewed call for limits, which are now under consideration by the East Hampton Village Board. Residents want less noise, especially on weekends when they are likely to be most irritated by the vexing on-and-off buzz; landscapers say that their work is all but impossible without them.

There is no doubt that the powerful blowers are effective. A few blasts and a difficult-to-rake gravel driveway looks as tidy as the grounds of Buckingham Palace. A single user can clear a leaf-strewn lawn in no time and quickly move on to the next job. That last point is key: If a work crew can tend more properties in a day using loud, polluting, gas-powered devices, there is a strong financial incentive to do so, the effect on air quality and neighbors’ sanity notwithstanding.

There have been efforts before to limit landscaping blowers and other noisy machines. Both East Hampton Town and Village have set hours for outdoor work of almost any kind, and from time to time a contractor or garbage collector is rewarded with a fine for showing up too early in the day. From the continued complaints, however, it is clear that these measures have failed to solve the problem. 

Residents’ expectation of peace and quiet in and around their homes is reasonable, and it is up to government to take the lead in providing it. Left to their bottom-line interests, landscapers and property-care companies will generally opt for the most effective machinery, with noise and air quality a lesser concern. However, if blowers are banned, particularly those with noise outputs above a certain level, the landscapers will figure out how to make a go of it, as they did before the blasted things were invented in the first place. If there is still money to be made taking care of leaves, someone will figure out how to do it, blowers or no.