The ongoing conversation about leaf blowers continued Monday, Jan. 14, as 24 residents spoke at a Town Hall hearing before about 50 people aimed to gather opinions before a final warrant article is proposed for Town Meeting.
Opinions ranged from a call by Barbara Costa for a quiet respect, which drew no applause, to a loud declaration from Joe Cabral, which did. "People living in apartments are trying to ruin this town," the 85-year-old said.
Between those extremes, Town Meeting members Gordon Jamieson and Chris Loreti offered advice about specific changes. Jamieson handed a new proposal to the committee.
9 favor keeping bylaw; 7 back no restrictions
In all -- and in some cases the final tally depends on how you interpret the words of some speakers -- nine favored keeping the bylaw restricting gas-powered leaf blowers adopted last May, challenged in a July special election and supported by the attorney general in October.
Seven speakers favored no restrictions. Five backed measures described by moderator Kevin Greeley as a compromise. Three offered comments that made it unclear where they stood.
As to the latter, Town Meeting member John Deyst, an MIT professor, asked two essential questions about proposed restrictions -- about real expenses to landscapers as well as pollutants. "I want hard data," he said.
Representative summary of comments
Here is a representative summary of comments expressed Jan. 14:
Stephen Harrington, a Precinct 13 Town Meeting member who pushed for a Special Town Meeting in October, said leaf blowers should not be banned, claiming Town Meeting has been taking up this issue since 2008. He said he had contacted the EPA and said "no one will tell me" whether leaf blowers lead to a public health hazard. He said restrictions would cost him $3,000.
Ilene Rosin of Academy Street urged paying better attention to definitions, noting that the bylaw Town Meeting adopted last May involves restrictions and is not a ban.
Eric Berger congratulated selectmen for continuing to study the matter, as the Special Town Meeting in October voted to do. He said he favors a compromise. He said restrictions would drive up costs at Spy Pond Condo, where he lives, and that "noise abatement is a legitimate issue."
Steven DelBanco of Oak Hill Road, in deciding whether something might harm his family's health, said: "I go by the smell test." He was referring to what people physically experience when leaf blowers stir up dust.
Henry Olds of Bartlett Avenue said he backs retaining the adopted bylaw focused on climate change. "We have to play a role," he said. He referred to that day's uncommonly warm temperature. "It was a beautiful day, and I didn't have to breathe the fumes" of leaf blowers.
Mark Kaepplein, a 23-year resident and a one-year Precinct 7 Town Meeting member, said he favored "honoring the leaf-blower "mandate," which he said was reflected in the July 19 Special Election vote. No votes topped the yes by an almost 2-to-1 margin in the special election held to decide a bylaw restricting leaf blowers, but the number of no votes, 5,589, did not reach the 20-percent benchmark required by state law.
Cuts own lawn, believes in democracy
Bob Valeri of Wheaton Road said he cuts his own lawn and believes in democracy. He agreed with Kaepplein about the mean of last July's vote and expressed concern about the burden a bylaw would place on law enforcement.
Near the end of the hearing, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes, Gary Tibbetts, vice chair of the leaf-blower committee and a landscaper, asked to speak to answer questions raise. After committee chair Diane Mahon and Greeley conferred, it was decided that public comment had been sufficient and that committee members need not speak.
As of the Jan. 14 hearing, 58 written comments had been received.
Diane Mahon, chair
Jill Snyder, secretary
Kevin Greeley (ex-officio member)
Minutes of two meetings: 11/28, 12/10
This story was published Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. Your comments are welcome at the link below the story. You must sign your full name.