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Arlington landscapers fighting leaf blower ban

Effort underway to force town vote

ARLINGTON - A group of landscapers and residents upset with a leaf blower ban passed by Town Meeting last week say they have the signatures to trigger a special election that could overturn the law.

By a vote of 95 to 85 last week, Arlington Town Meeting voted to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers on private land between May 15 and Oct. 15 because of objections to noise and dust kicked up by the equipment.

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The ban probably would not take effect until next year because it needs approval from the state attorney general’s office, but landscapers want to overturn the measure immediately.

“We’re deeply concerned with the outcome of the meeting and the ramifications it’s going to have on people’s everyday lives as well as business owners in town,’’ said Joseph Cusce Jr., owner of Black Diamond Landscapes in Arlington.

Cusce said landscaping costs will rise because of the ban and those costs would be passed along to customers.

Since last week, landscapers and residents say they have gathered 1,200 signatures. That is more than enough, they say, to trigger a special election that would put the leaf blower ban before all of Arlington’s voters with a binding ballot question.

Arlington’s town counsel, Juliana Rice, told the Board of Selectmen Monday that under a rarely used state law, a seven-day waiting period follows any vote that Town Meeting takes to amend a town bylaw.

Within that period, Rice said if 3 percent of Arlington’s registered voters sign a petition calling for a special election on a local bylaw amendment, selectmen would be obligated to call for the vote “forthwith.’’

“This is not something I’ve seen,’’ Rice said.

Rice said petitioners would need the signatures of 864 registered voters in Arlington to force a special election on the leaf blower ban.

But even if the petitioners garner enough signatures to trigger an election, at least 20 percent of the town’s registered voters would have to cast ballots, and a majority of them would have to vote against the leaf blower ban in order for the law to be overturned.

If less than 20 percent of the registered voters cast a ballot in the special election, Rice said, the leaf blower ban would be upheld.

An added hurdle to the turnout requirement would be a reduced amount of hours that polling places would be open.

Rice said that by law, polls for the special election would be open only from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Undeterred, Cusce said he is working with about 25 landscapers, and they continue to collect signatures in support of a special election.

He said they plan to file their petition with the town for Thursday so the signatures can be certified.

George Laite, a Town Meeting member working with the landscapers, said the sentiment he has heard in Arlington during the past week has been overwhelmingly opposed to the leaf blower ban.

Laite said the matter should go before all of the town’s voters.

“People want to be heard on this issue,’’ Laite said.

On Monday, selectmen considered placing a nonbinding question about the leaf blower ban on a ballot, but the board voted 4 to 1 against, with only board chairman Kevin Greeley supporting the measure.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.
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