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Saanich council mulls ban on gas-powered leaf blowers

Noisy gas-powered leaf blowers could fall silent in Saanich in coming years if council decides to move forward on banning them.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who filed a petition with Saanich council calling for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, shows what he uses for yard cleanup: a broom. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Noisy gas-powered leaf blowers could fall silent in Saanich in coming years if council decides to move forward on banning them.

Saanich council will decide at its May 31 meeting whether to send the issue to its strategic planning session in September.

“We think the time is now right to launch this phased-in approach on how we are going to ban gas-powered leaf blowers,” Mayor Fred Haynes said Friday. “This isn’t a simple issue. It needs a very careful and thorough understanding. It needs to go to strategic planning for further discussion.”

If it’s approved at the ­planning session, council will direct staff to prepare a report on how a staged process can be implemented to ban gas-­powered leaf blowers for municipal, residential and professional use, said Hayes.

About 500 people signed a petition that was presented to Saanich council on May 17.

The petition, started by researcher Teale Phelps ­Bondaroff, calls for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, a recycling program for obsolete machines and regulation of electric blowers to ensure their noise output is within safe thresholds and in compliance with Saanich’s noise-suppression bylaw. The petition cites the negative health impacts of environmental and noise pollution.

“I’m quite pleased,” Phelps Bondaroff said Friday. “It’s good to see Saanich considering exploring banning gas-powered leaf blowers. And I hope that when they do that, they also review Saanich’s noise ordinances, which are very much out of date and unenforceable. It’s really important that we look at tackling noise pollution, not just from gas-powered leaf ­blowers, but from various sources, because noise pollution directly adversely impacts people’s ­well-being.”

It’s the first step in a longer process, he said.

This year, Oak Bay council approved a staff recommendation to phase out the use of small-engine gas-powered landscape equipment such as lawnmowers and leaf blowers by municipal staff. Council’s decision does not include landscaping companies or residential use.

In Saanich, public works and parks staff are also moving away from the use of gas-powered chainsaws, hedge-trimmers and power tools, said Haynes.

While many residents will be able to use electric leaf blowers, said Haynes, many professional landscapers have invested in gas-powered systems.

“So we would need to respect that. We also recognize that ­battery-powered leaf blowers are not quite there yet,” the mayor said.

“But we understand, ­particularly with COVID and the pressure on people’s businesses, that this needs to be done with delicacy, with full information and a common-sense approach.”

The petition itself recom­mends a staged approach, he noted.

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