Article Courtesy of The Sun
By Susannah Bryan
Published October 11, 2020
FORT LAUDERDALE — The city is considering a ban on leaf blowers and their
decibel-crushing assault on the ear, but it could end up costing you money.
Mayor Dean Trantalis is proposing the controversial ban, not just because leaf
blowers buzz like chainsaws, but because landscape trimmings sometimes get blown
into the street. Once in the street, the debris can wind up in storm drains,
then get swept into the waterways and, in the worst cases, result in algae
“It’s not just noise pollution,”
Trantalis said. “It’s water pollution.”
Landscapers, however, are not happy about the possibility of
losing a tool that saves them countless hours. Resorting to
brooms and rakes will take forever and lead to higher prices
for consumers, they say.
The mayor understands that but says he plans to ask city
staff to draft an ordinance before the end of the year that
would ban the blowers.
Fort Lauderdale would not be the first. Key Biscayne banned
gas-powered blowers in 2018. The town of Palm Beach banned
them on properties smaller than an acre in 2017, after years
of debating whether to embrace an outright ban.
California’s Carmel-by-the-Sea was the first city to ban
them in 1975, the Los Angeles Times reported. Since then,
more than 100 cities in 15 states have banned leaf blowers
or limit the times of day they can be used, according to one
report by the Natural Resources Commission in Davis,
Coral Gables toyed with the idea 10 years
ago but tabled the plan after homeowners and landscapers
came out in force against it.
Tellis Robinson of Angler Lawn and Landscape uses a
leaf blower to clean up after mowing a client's lawn Wednesday in
Fort Lauderdale. Robinson opposes a proposed ban of leaf blowers.
Costs will skyrocket
Fort Lauderdale might just get the same reaction, says Kyle Bolger, the owner of
Emerald Isle Landscape in Fort Lauderdale
“If a blower ban was put in place, the cost to [homeowner] associations would
skyrocket,” Bolger said. “Costs would go up due to labor. If you have to go
around a residential job with a rake and a broom, you could be there for an
hour. And with a blower it would take just five minutes.”
A ban on leaf blowers would send landscaping crews back to the dark ages, said
Armando Sariol, owner Top Green Landscaping in Weston.
“What are they supposed to use to blow the leaves?” he asked rhetorically. “I
would just charge more. If it normally takes two hours, it will take four hours
without a blower.”
That means the customer is going to pay more, said Pat O’Laughlin, owner of
Angler Lawn & Landscape in Wilton Manors.
“We’d be handcuffed in getting the job done,” he said. “One of the main pieces
of equipment would be banned. You’d have to rake it all into a pile.”
Breaking the rules
O’Laughlin says his crew bags the landscape trimmings and hauls them away.
“My guys know not to blow it in the storm drain,” he said. “I told my guys, ‘You
do that and you’re fired.’ I’m the one who’s going to get cited by the city for
letting the leaves wind up in the storm drain.”
But not every company follows the rules.
“They blow it out into the middle of Bayview Drive,” O’Laughlin said. “They
don’t care and their bosses don’t care.”
In Key Biscayne, officials have seen in increase in landscaping crews violating
the ban on gas-powered blowers even though it’s been on the books for two years.
“New contractors who are not aware of the ban are the ones we’re finding,” said
Dario Gonzalez, one of the city’s code officers.
First-time violators get a verbal warning. A second violation warrants a written
warning. And a third violation gets a $150 fine. After that, the fine goes up to
Talk of a ban was sweet news to Fort Lauderdale resident Kathy Diaz, who says
the smell of gas permeates her home whenever landscaping crews come around with
their whirring blowers.
“My concern is the gas it emits into the environment,” she said. “It spreads
dirt into the air. The leaf blowers are extremely noisy. It’s louder than a
plane flying overhead.”
Trantalis says he’s been getting complaints from irate residents for years about
crews blowing landscaping debris into the street.
“I see it myself,” he said. “I see them blowing debris into the storm drains.”
That’s already illegal in Fort Lauderdale. People caught doing it can be fined
$150 — twice the fine they’d be charged in Hollywood. If they challenge the
citation and lose, Fort Lauderdale’s fine increases to $225.
But it’s hard to catch everyone, because the city can’t put a cop or code
officer on every corner to enforce it, Trantalis said.
‘We can’t be everywhere’
An all-out ban would cure that problem.
“We can’t be everywhere,” the mayor said. “But if you’re using a leaf blower,
we’ll hear you.”
Commissioner Heather Moraitis said she was worried about the effect a ban would
have on local landscaping businesses.
She suggested the city start by restricting their hours of use.
Like many cities, Fort Lauderdale has a noise ordinance that already restricts
when the blowers can be used. Currently, the city allows them from 7 a.m. to 7
p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends.
In Hollywood, landscapers are allowed to use leaf blowers from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday through Saturday. The start time on the barrier island moves back an hour
to 8 a.m.
In Boca Raton, blowers are allowed from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Before moving ahead with a ban, Moraitis suggested Fort Lauderdale phase in any
Trantalis said the new rules could be phased in, but he stood his ground on the
need for a ban.
“Even though COVID is impacting our economy, we don’t want to compromise the
quality of our waterways,” he said. Plus, he said, tweaking the hours of use
won’t solve the problem of leaves and debris getting into storm drains.
Vice Mayor Steve Glassman, whose district includes the beach, said he’s on board
with the plan.
“It’s been an ongoing discussion in my district,” he said. “People are concerned
not just with the noise aspect, but what it does to our storm drains and our
waterways. I went on a tour of the waterways and it’s true, it does end up in
our waterways. If we do ban them, the noise itself will tip people off that
they’re using them.”
The city may get pushback from landscapers, but Glassman said it’s time to make
“I’m sure they’re not going to be thrilled about it,” he said. “But this is
getting critical. We’re the Venice of America. We’re known for our waterways. We
have to do all we can to protect that.”
Fort Lauderdale would be on solid legal ground if it approved a ban, said Bob
Jarvis, a law professor with Nova Southeastern University.
“What we’re talking about is whether cities can take action against excessive
noise and they can,” he said. But the state Legislature could step in as it did
when Key West tried to ban certain types of sunscreen, he said.