Gas powered leaf-blowers will not be banned in South Miami after all.
Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday evening to delete the language that would have prohibited using, or causing to be used, gasoline powered leaf-blowers within 50 feet of any residence or outdoor restaurant. The rest of the ordinance, which deals with noise created by lawn equipment, was passed.
Commissioner Bob Welsh cast the lone dissenting vote.
Welsh predicted that if the pollution from using leaf-blowers all over the city doesn’t change, “Numerous years from now, people are going to come down with a lot worse lung diseases.”
On a first reading last month, city commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the leaf-blower ban. But at Tuesday’s meeting, a local landscape owner spoke vehemently against the measure.
“You cannot do my job efficiently without the blower,” said Jim Morris, owner of Caretakers Landscape Services, and who said he has been in the business for 40 years.
When asked by Vice Mayor Liebman how the proposed ban would affect his customers, Morris said he would have to charge them more because it would take longer to finish each yard. Morris estimated that a $40 lawn would cost $60 if he couldn’t use gas-powered leaf-blowers.
Morris, in an interview on Wednesday, said the ban would have made life much harder for his seven employees who work in 90-degree heat. “It’s a necessary evil.”
Leaf-blower ban proponent Antoinette Fischer didn’t see it that way.
“If there are other cities in the United States that have banned four-cycle, gasoline-powered leaf-blowers, and they’re all dealing with it successfully, then why can’t we?”
Fischer said her main concern was the health consequences of leaf blowers.
“It’s more than just noise,” Fischer said. “It’s the carbon monoxide emissions and the dirt and all the particulate matter…that’s coming at us that we’re forced to breathe in.”
Fischer later said she had concerns about the environmental impact, citing climate change.
“We need to reduce our carbon footprint and this particular tool emits a lot of carbon monoxide,” Fischer said.
The new ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, restricts when noisy landscaping equipment —lawn mowers, edgers, weed trimmers, leaf blowers, chain saws, chippers, stump grinders, pressure washers — can be used. Commercial landscaping companies are not allowed to use that equipment from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. weekdays, and are only allowed to use it from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Commercial operation on Sundays and holidays is not allowed.
Residents face less stringent restrictions: non-commercial operation is allowed after 8 a.m. weekdays — 9 a.m. on weekends — until 30 minutes after sunset.
However, the ordinance includes an exception to the above time restrictions if neighbors give written permission allowing for using such equipment during the restricted hours. Another caveat is that equipment used to resolve an emergency situation is exempt, though this is subject to the city manager’s interpretation.
The city also banned the use of lawn-maintenance equipment that causes “particulate matter to blow or drift in or through another residential property.”
The new ordinance establishes decibel limits for any blower, fan or internal combustion engine in residential neighborhoods.
The penalty for violations of the noise ordinance include a warning for the first offense, and up to a $500 fine for subsequent offenses.
Fischer said on Wednesday she was “disappointed” that the leaf-blower ban did not pass, but was not surprised. She previously asked the commission for a workshop to discuss the issue, though none have been held, and hopes to gather more input from citizens.
Fischer said, “It’s not over as far as I’m concerned.”
In other business, the commission voted 3-2 to defer approval of the city manager’s contract after three months of negotiations. Several residents at the meeting complained that the full compensation package, estimated at more than $270,000 per year, was too high for a city the size of South Miami. Mayor Phil Stoddard and Liebman cast the dissenting votes.
The meeting ended before commissioners could discuss ordinances relating to panhandling, trespassing, and banning helipads.