This letter is from the MA. Association of Landscape Professionals " As a statewide organization that represents hundreds of professional landscape companies Across the Commonwealth... we ask that you seriously consider the serious consequences of a leaf blower ban in Brookline."


Dear Town Meeting Member,
First, thank you for all the work you do on behalf of Brookline, and for your consideration of this letter regarding leaf blowers.

Taking care of fall yard cleanup is a surprisingly large task. Perhaps some Brookline residents who outsource yard maintenance are unaware of the immense volume of leaves piling up in yards and sidewalks in the fall.

Blowers are a valuable, time-saving tool for homeowners with yards. My experience clearing leaves with both a rake and a leaf blower confirms that leaf blowers are quicker by multiples. An analogy to the proposed blower ban would be a ban on vacuum cleaners, with everyone told to sweep their floors and beat their carpets.

The suggestion that all yard owners switch to electric blowers is also problematic. As Consumer Reports stated in September of this year, “Cordless-electric blowers that… we've tested have been pricey and offered relatively little run time before their batteries need recharging.” Blowers require (1) more concentrated power than electric drills or laptop computers, and at the same time (2) lightness for a handheld device, as opposed to a wheeled machine like a battery-powered car. A battery capable of powering a blower through a common Brookline yard size would be too heavy and bulky.

Plug-in blowers might work for some yard configurations, but as Consumer Reports also states, “The power cord limits your mobility and can prove a hassle around trees and other obstacles.” Of course, the reason most of us have a leaf blower is all those trees. The physics of moving air will inherently create some noise, and electric blowers are not whisper quiet substitutes - I’ve used a friend’s corded-electric blower, which was roughly as loud as, if not louder than, my gas-powered one.

Rather than banning all leaf blowers, or singling out gasoline-powered blowers, Brookline should continue enforcing the reasonable sound and time-of-day restrictions already on the books, and let residents choose which device works best for their circumstances.

Richard Chapman
107 Upland Road
Brookline, Massachusetts 

Letter: Leaf blower ban would affect older residents most

As a retired and 45-year resident of Brookline, I am astounded and shocked by a proposal that would ban leaf blowers in the town.

I am an avid gardener who takes pride in the meticulous standards Brookline has always set. With great satisfaction, even joy, for the pleasure my simple efforts seem to generate among those who drive or walk by, I have for some 10 years established and cared for two gardens, at the intersections of Warren and Clyde streets, the other where Warren Street meets Heath Street. They were formerly completely abandoned and a tangle of weeds and vines climbing over the fire hydrant and telephone poles. The spaces are small, the plants fragile; they must be relieved of the leaves that fall, and raking is not only impossible but would destroy my plants in the process. My little blower does its job quickly and effortlessly. I would definitely abandon this well loved neighborhood project. Raking is not an option.

I wonder, too, about the raking costs of two important golf courses, Putterham and The Country Club, where so many enjoy the play, including the town’s deserving police and firemen. Raking is absurd and laughable; has anyone in this country heard of raking golf courses?

I now live at the Larz Anderson condominiums, where the beauty of the landscape could not be maintained, nor would it be economically feasible for us older and retired people, without the use of leaf blower, certain times and the level of which are carefully observed by the wonderful crew. I dare say we would be abandoned were this ban to take place, and they would lose important business, and we would suffer the ugly and economically stressful results.

This proposal directly affects Brookline’s older citizens. That the town should be unique in this proposal, which surely is no less obtrusive than overflowing trash bags and garbage barrels left for pickup, is beyond understanding. I would urge that this proposal be abandoned. — Katharine Begien, Goddard Avenue

October 29. 2015 10:19AM

Letter: Stop with ‘draconian’ solutions

I read Katharine Begien’s letter with her concerns about the proposed banning of all leaf blowers in Brookline and agree with it. I want the golf courses to be able to clear the leaves from their fairways. Let me add my additional concerns about not being able to use a leaf blower if it passes.

I live on the trolley track side of Tappan Street, which means I have a very steep dropoff down the hill behind my house to the trolley track. That means I have to avoid creating any situation where erosion could gradually eat away my backyard. To get a 3-foot strip across my 90- foot-wide lot took several years of careful attention and work.

One problem I had was that when the leaves fell off the trees and I tried to rake them out of the pachysandra, the rake would snag on the plants and pull some of them up. This delayed the plants’ ability to fill in the spaces between them. I solved this problem by buying a leaf blower, which blew the leaves out without damaging the plants.
What are those who are supporting the proposed ban suggesting that I do? I don’t want to go back to raking my pachysandra out of the ground, and I think making me pick out all the leaves by hand is not a reasonable, sane thought. Maybe they think I should [get] an old- fashioned bellows and blow them out with that, but since I am not a youngster anymore, that is more work than I can handle. Some people would say that I should hire someone to do that, but they wouldn’t be able to use a blower either, plus I hate to spend money on something that is easily done with a leaf blower. Besides, there are limits on my budget. Remember, our taxes keep going up faster than any cost of living raises.
I, too, have lived in Brookline for 45 years, and would hope that people stop coming up with draconian solutions to problems. —
Allan Sutfin, Tappan Street


  It's not enough to exempt the DPW.  The DPW cannot be on every street every day, and inasmuch leaves blow onto the streets and sidewalks from private property (as well as from town-owned street trees), it is important that Brookline property owners or their hired contractors be able to routinely and effectively collect and bag the leaves that fall on their own private property before the wind can blow them onto the public way.

  Fallen leaves can block storm drains, causing street and even basement flooding, and wet leaves can be as slippery as ice for both drivers , cyclists, and pedestrians, so the clean-up of fallen leaves, whether on public or private property is a public safety concern.  The use of leaf-blowers clearly facilitates and makes for a more thorough collection and removal of fallen leaves.

   Selectman Ben Franco and his Selectmen's committee have come up with a series of fine recommendations that are intended to address many of the problems and annoyances some residents have expressed regarding leaf-blowers.  The Town should certainly implement these recommendations and see how well they work before embarking on a leaf-blower ban as has been proposed.

  In my view, its worth putting up with a bit of annoyance (I too find the sound of leaf-blowers to be annoying) if their widespread usage lessens the risk of accidents and personal injury, as was suffered by my own 80-year-old mother, of blessed memory, due to fallen leaves in the roadway, that was described above in Diana's posting,

Best regards,
Stanley Spiegel, TMM02


Let's talk about this, if in considering a total ban of leaf blowers, this after making all blowers in use to be less than 67db, haven't we overlooked more polluting and noise bothersome small equipment that is currently in use. We have the weed wacker used to trim beds, or eradicate growth along grass lines and walkways where in the old days we would use hand grass clippers. We have electric and gas chain saws to cut wood and trim trees, both of which are noise polluters and polluters of the air we breath and spoil our planets resources. obviously for thousands of years man used first an axe and next a saw both powered by hand. Also along that line, we have gas powered polluting self propelled lawn mowers and rider mowers used each week for some 30+ times yearly at every property in town. 

But yet the facts show there is an insignificant health risk to our residents due to the use of leaf blowers. More facts show the vast improvement already made on New England air quality. is it dangerous for town employees, home owners and landscapers to use leaf blowers a simple NO is sufficient. using good safety practices an operator of outdoor equipment, lawn mower, leaf blower, chain saw, log splitter, power gas edger is already protecting themselves with hearing protection, breathing protection, and face and eye protection. All such protections are demanded and checked by OSHA. 

Shall we ban leaf blowers can these other helpful lawn equipment be too far behind. Yes you can take it if you're young and health enough, and yes you can cut a lawn by hand, I did it as a kid and yes, you can cut down a tree with an axe or hand saw instead of using a gas powered chain saw but is this what we really want? To toss out convenience items because they create insignificant levels of harm? Don't we need to balance these types of conveniences against their costs? I always was taught there are trade offs to everything. 

I know when I hear a leaf blower and find it annoying, I close my window till it's over rather that get aggravated.

So this reminds me of the old saying about tossing the baby out with the bath water. Is this what we really want to do, completely ban leaf blowers? I suggest not! There are smarter ways to accomplish our goals without resorting duck draconian methods as a total ban. 
Brookline, let's be smart. Vote no on Article 10. preserve our rights to use small powered garden equipment. 

Fred Levitan TMM P14



Couldn't agree more. Easy to make "noise" about the environment when you don't have to put together 40-44 bags of leaves a year, and no kids to help. Or clear the oak (rose or whatever) dust off the windows, stairs, driveway or car every Spring. Easy to push a hand mower over 60 square (level) feet, how about 1200 up a rise? Easy to find a kid or college student (sure) to do the small but dangerous light dusting of snow on stairs or steps? Try it in the coming months.

I can't get anyone to get up the ladder and clear the leaves on my 1891 Queen Anne (so they don't freeze up and pull down another 37 feet of gutter this winter) but at 72 I managed to blow them out this afternoon, with about 20 minutes of noise. That's while nearby demo and construction around Winchester and Coolidge dwarfed that sound from 7 am this morning until 4 quitting time. I do it two or three times a season and rarely hear more than a few other blowers. But demo and construction - and re roofing - has been shattering MY calm six days a week, for weeks.

Clearly we live in different worlds, and have different needs. One size - or one absolute - mandate does not fit, or serve, all. 

Surely a community can arrive at reasonable compromises. 

For all those who want to send us back to creeping around on knees with hand clippers, do you mind if I toss out your dish washers or gas stoves or electric dryers - back in the "good old days" we used to do the dishes by hand, haul fire wood and hang out the wash...

George Abbott White, TMM9

I am no lover of the sound of leaf blowers and am happy to wield a rake myself to clean up leaves on our postage stamp North Brookline yard.  But I have come to regard leaf blowers as a temporary necessity for many during the cleanup seasons.  Homeowners with larger properties in leafier precincts are faced with significantly bigger cleanup jobs, a daunting task with only a rake.  And residents of more urban North Brookline who walk to shop or take the T need the safety that leaf-free streets and sidewalks provide.  

Today I received a mailing from from a local group opposing Article 10 (which seeks to ban leaf blowers). One of several points the mailing makes is the following: 

"No blowers in town would impact community safety and enjoyment - if debris cleanup is less timely and thorough, the potential for slip and falls on wet leaves on sidewalks, increased flooding and incubation of insects and rodents increases."

Reading that, I was reminded of what happened to my octogenarian mother-in-law in the fall of 1986. She had just moved, a few months earlier, from the Bronx, NY to Brookline, in order to be closer to her son, daughter-in-law and young grandchildren. Though, like many others her age, slightly hampered by cataracts, she was still active and enjoyed walking from her apartment at 100 Centre Street to our house half a mile away to bring us a jar of homemade chicken soup or meatballs while we were at work. 

So one sunny day in November of 1986 she set out on such an errand. But this was before the more common use of leaf blowers by the Brookline DPW, and also just 4 years after Prop 2 1/2 had gone into effect in Massachusetts.  Many towns, including Brookline, had enacted dramatic cuts to town services in order to comply with Prop 2 1/2 budgets.  As a result there were leaves all over the sidewalks, curbs and gutters of North Brookline streets. 

When she crossed a street and tried to step onto the sidewalk she couldn't see where the curb was, so she tripped and fell, fracturing her wrist. Neighbors called 911 and, when they learned who she was, called us. We met her at the ER and brought her home to live with us for a month while she was handicapped by a cast from wrist to elbow. 

Almost 30 years later, I am now a senior citizen myself and whether I walk the flat sidewalks to shop in Coolidge Corner or climb up and down Corey Hill for the exercise & the view, I am grateful for the cleaner safer sidewalks the town is able to provide via the efficient use of leaf blowers during the fall cleanup period.  

Diana Spiegel
Precinct 2


Open Letter to Brookline Town Meeting Members:

My Name is Peter Bleyleben and I live in Chestnut Hill/Brookline 02467 in Precinct 13. I am sending this to all Brookline Town Meeting Members to express my opposition to any further material restrictions on the use of leaf-blowers – in particular Article 10 to be discussed at the Town Meeting starting on November 17, 2015.


I believe Leaf blowers fall into the group of various motorized efficiency tools having come to market over the last few decades: Snow Blowers, Chain Saws, Lawn Mowers all have similar aspects:

1)            They fulfill a very narrow, specific purposes and are only used for such specific purposes

2)            They dramatically improve efficiency in getting the tasks done for which they are designed for compared to non-motorized alternatives

3)            They make the tasks substantially less strenuous to perform than non-motorized alternatives

As result of these advantages, our sidewalks get cleaned off snow faster, our grass gets mowed more regularly, dead branches and trees get removed more quickly, and leaves, acorns, little branches, etc., as ‘irritating by-products’ of Brookline’s marvelous trees are dealt with much more conveniently!

All of these produce noise and I admit often irritating noise – but all these products, including leaf blowers have continued to become less noisy over time.

Noise is most disrupting during times when one is most enjoying the outside: Late spring thru late summer: It is my understanding that the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers is already prohibited during that time. And lawn mowers, or any construction activity, are way more noticeable since they occur during the summer months.

In short, I don’t see any reason to totally prohibit the use of (gasoline or otherwise) powered leaf blowers that have proven to be efficient in performing a very specific task. The broad public clearly showed its preference by increasingly using leaf-blowers over rakes and brooms. Leaves do need to get removed unless one wants to damage one’s lawn. Efficiency and effectiveness improvements in our lives always come with some costs – some noise during specific times of the year caused by leaf blowers is such a cost that should be affordable relative to the obvious benefits gained.

I appreciate you considering my input


Peter Bleyleben


Diana Lees Spiegel

I wonder - how does Ms. Scharf conclude that Brookline seniors will "largely be unaffected when Brookline bans leaf blowers"? I note that 14.4% of the residents are 65+ in South Brookline, the largely single-family neighborhood Ms. Scharf, a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 16, represents (according to a Nov 2013 report from the Brookline Community Foundation).  

And in North Brookline, where I live, there are T5 (single and two family) districts where many senior homeowners (including myself, my husband, and a number of friends and neighbors) continue to "age in place", while doing our own yard work. Sometimes the aid of a leaf blower is needed during the fall cleanup. The 10/29 letter "Stop with 'draconian' solutions" from Allan Sutfin (who is, I believe, a long retired BHS guidance counselor) is an example of a senior citizen who would have difficulty clearing leaves from his steep plot of land without a leaf blower.  
The recent recommendations (for increased education and enforcement) by Selectman Franco's Noise Bylaw Committee should be considered and implemented before any changes are made to the bylaws

Linda Plazonja

I would challenge Ms. Scharf to provide statistics that demonstrate that "These residents [seniors] tend to live in condos, apartments or assisted living facilities, so are not doing their own gardening" and "older residents will largely be unaffected when Brookline bans leaf blowers." These statements are anecdotal at best or rash generalizations at worst. Even if her statements were true, what is indisputable is that the increased costs of landscaping manually, without leaf blowers, would be passed on to the consumer in increased fees, whether condo owner, tenant, or resident in an assisted living facility. It's disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Further, from what I am reading on, the case for harm to residents has been erroneously overstated by the petitioners. Why is this even a Warrant Article?

Dear Advisory committee:

I have owned a landscape business for 17 years, and most of our work is in the Brookline area. In fact I designed and installed the new front landscape at Putterham library probono last year.  

I hold four relevant certifications:  I am a certified Organic Landcare professional, a Certified mass Horticulturalist, a Certified landscape professional and nationally certified landscape designer. As a business owner with 7 full time landscape crew personnel, and often working outside myself, I think a lot about health and safety for my crew and our clients. 

This proposed 100% ban on leaf blowers on the surface sounds like an easy way to reduce noise and dust in Brookline. My colleague Faith Michaels can present facts about the actual noise and pollution emitted by blowers and how that compares to other polluters.   My emphasis tonight is what I see as the overly simplified and myopic focus on this particular landscape tool, and our duty to ask the question of what would be achieved if the ban passed.  

Here are my thoughts on this topic:

1.Why do I say overly simplified:  Because focusing on one essential tool of one industry places an undue burden on that industry when in fact, many industries generate loud noise and actually produce dust particles.  Think about Jack Hammers, construction equipment, horns on cars and snow blowers for noise and wood burning fireplaces, SUVs, and clothes driers for actual particulate pollution producers.  I assert that all of these commonly accepted tools in our lives can produce annoying loud noise and many actually generate dust, whereas leaf blowers only move dust in the air.  Here are two examples of what we could be discussing just as earnestly: 

  • •    Clothes dryer vents emit more than 600 VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere and two of the VOCs are considered by the EPA to be carcinogenic (acetaldehyde and benzene) and unsafe at ANY exposure level, 7 of the VOCs are classified as "hazardous air pollutants." And the highest concentration of emitted VOCs was acetaldehyde, acetone and ethanol. 
  • •    Wood smoke from indoor fireplaces contain extremely small “fine” and “ultrafine” particles – PM 2.5 (.0001 inch) or less, which can lodge deep in the lungs or even pass into the bloodstream. These particles have higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, including some of the same ones found in tobacco smoke and classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “probable human carcinogens.” 
  • •    Deciding to ban leaf blowers is as nonsensical as outlawing one of these two well loved house tools.  

2.Why do I say Myopic:  because zeroing in on one particular tool and planning to totally eliminate it ignores the wider consequences of such thinking. Consider these consequences:

  • •    All residents of Brookline would be significantly impacted by needing an additional 5x as much human power to clean up their properties in spring and fall. The Town of Brookline did an experiment in house and found that when comparing humans with rakes versus a person with a blower, it took 5x longer for the person with a rake 
  • •    Using a rake and bags or tarps would cost residents up to 500% more in landscape fees which for many residents would be very difficult to absorb.
  • •    There are not enough landscapers to provide all of this labor needed and I assert that some of the easy breezy about this proposed ban is because it has classist and racist underpinings.  Many of the laborers doing this work are non-white, less traditionally educated and working class folks who don’t organize themselves and are not politically connected.  I doubt the town would consider outlawing clothes driers, snow blowers or SUVs since the residents affected by this sort of ban would be up in arms.  
  • •    The Town of Brookline Public Works estimates it would cost an additional half million dollars to clean up all the parks, schools, streets, etc with rakes. 
  • •    And if health is the main concern, let’s consider the impact of raking for hours, weeks and months on the people doing this work.  No one can ignore the impact of mechanization and that machines can do formerly human labor faster, easier and cheaper.  Imagine the repetitive injuries on the town crew, the landscape workers and homeowners. 
  • •    And if cleaning up leaves and debris is only human powered, I believe there would be more flooding in streets when street debris is simply not removed.  

The unintended consequences are many and the impact will be felt by every single household, business and business owner who in any way is responsible for property care.  The tree industry, landscape industry, condomimium management companies, malls, the two golf courses, the Town will all be impacted. And who is going to explain to every resident that they can no longer use blowers or have their paid professionals use leaf blowers. I shudder to imagine the outcry if Article 10 passes.  

What I do acknowledge is that blowers are loud and some landscape professionals turn to them before using other less loud or intensive means.  There is room for more education amongst members of the landscape community to use good judgement when selecting tools and how to take care when using tools with safety measures like dust mask, hearing protection, etc.  We in the landscape industry have put forth Warrant Article 11 which limits use to specific weeks in the spring and fall with a possibility of lifting the ban if a horrendous storm hits.  There is already a decibel level ordinance in place in brookline as well as time of day regulations. 

I ask you to really ask yourself if this ban has been properly and thoroughly researched, vetted and the consequences anticipated.  

Sincerely, Christie Dustman, Principal APLD, Certified landscape Designer,MCH, Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist