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Support A Ban On Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers? Environmental Commission Wants To Know

Princeton activist Eunice Wong speaks to the Environmental Commission during its February 1 virtual meeting.

The Environmental Commission wants to know if Franklin residents support some type of ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

Commission members came to that decision during their February 1 virtual meeting, after hearing from a Princeton-based activist who is getting her town to act on a ban.

The activist, Eunice Wong, talked about her efforts to get the Princeton City Council to entertain a ban.

Wong said she started the effort by gathering signatures on a petition, which was presented to the Princeton environmental commission and City Council.

“We’re starting to work hopefully toward an ordinance,” she said.

Banning gas-powered leaf blowers – seasonally and outright – has become a hot topic in the country, with about 200 towns passing some type of prohibition on their use.

Ban proponents argue that the blowers’ engines do not use gasoline efficiently, that they emit carcinogenic material and that the noise they emit causes deleterious health effects.

Opponents to the bans, usually landscaping companies which are heavy users of the machines, argue that the battery and electric-powered blowers are not as powerful, and that the economic investment needed to convert is too great.

The Commission seemed amenable to the idea of a ban after Wong pointed out what she said were the negative impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers.

A township resident who listened in on the meeting said that he didn’t like the noise the machines made either, but that fire engines and ambulances also made noise, and no one was talking about banning them.

The residents also said that senior citizens to use the gas-powered blowers to clean their lawns would be adversely affected by a ban.

After hearing from Wong and the public, Commission member Arnold Schmidt said he wondered what the best way would be to go about instituting a ban in Franklin, “if there is going to be change in Franklin Township.:

“Does it come from the Environmental Commission doing something, or do you get a petition from throughout the town, so you know that the people in the town want this done,” he asked. “If you see that, then you move toward getting some kind of resolution.”

“The other way is if the environmental commission writes an ordinance,” he said.

The Environmental Commission has been pro-active in proposing ordinances in the past, the most recent being a ban on plastic bags and other single-use plastic items.

“I think a petition would have some effect, but also if you have a couple of people speak up during the public session of the (Township) Council meeting,” said Township Councilman Ted Chase.

“What, if anything, do we want to do,” Schmidt said. “Do we want to wait for somebody in the public to start a petition, do we want to see if people go to council meetings, do we want to see what the public outcry is?”

Speaking to the public, Commission member Robyn Suydam said, “If any of you feel the call to start a petition, please feel free to do so and bring it to us. It would be very helpful to us. It would be something we would respond to.”

Commission member Paul Walitsky, who lives in Canal Walk, said that residents of teh gated communities are worried about what would happen to teh cost of their lawn maintenance contracts if landscapers were forced to buy new equipment.

Wong said that the battery and electric-powered leaf blowers are more expensive initially than the gas-powered models, but, she said, they pay for themselves in gasoline and maintenance cost savings.

“If it can be shown that it’s a long-term investment, then I think the boards can make that argument to the landscapers,” Walitsky said.

“I think we need to do some research,” he said. “We heard the presentation; we have a base.”

“Based on this conversation, who knows, maybe somebody will come out with a petition,” Schmidt added.

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