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West

Lincoln considering limits on leaf blowers

A landscaper blew away debris with leaf blower last July.

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

A landscaper blew away debris with leaf blower last July.

Lincoln resident Jamie Banks says she  hears the buzz of leaf blowers from spring to fall, dusk to dawn, seven days a week.

She said she’s tired of the noise and dust caused by the gas-powered machines, and hopes the town can come together to limit their use and protect the community’s rural feel.

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“Lincoln is a beautiful little town, and these are very noisy, polluting machines,’’ said Banks, who lives in the town center where a number of businesses and residential developments use the blowers.

Lincoln is among a growing number of towns where residents have raised concerns about the proliferation of gas-powered leaf blowers to clean up leaves, grass clippings, and sand.

Cambridge, Brookline, and Arlington have all approved limits on when the devices can be used. Other communities, including Framingham, Marblehead, and Wellesley, recently shot down proposals to restrict them.

In Lincoln, some residents have formed a group called Quiet Lincoln and submitted a citizens’ petition for this year’s annual Town Meeting that would direct the Board of Selectmen to appoint an advisory committee to study noise and air pollution associated with the leaf blowers, research alternatives, and report findings next year. Town Meeting is March 23.

Members said they don’t want to create conflict in town, so they are not proposing any restrictions yet. They said they want to educate the community about the negative health, noise, and ecological impacts, and hope residents voluntarily stop using them.

“This is a problem and we’re trying to figure out a solution that isn’t divisive,’’ said resident Robin Wilkerson. “We’re trying to go in the most conciliatory way because it’s a small town.’’

Wilkerson said there are four major issues associated with leaf blowers: noise, air pollution, an increased carbon footprint, and ecological damage. Wilkerson, a former landscape designer, said while many residents are annoyed by the noise, she is focused on the impact to the soil. When leaf blowers are used, the natural mulch and soil are stripped away, leaving a sterile landscape, she said.

Resident James Meadors said his biggest concern is the use of leaf blowers in the summer for tasks other than leaf pickup. He said they are often used to clear grass clippings from the road or driveway, and sand and dirt from sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots.

“I see that we have a potential quality of life issue going down the road,’’ Meadors said. “We’d like to see their uses and hours curtailed a little bit.’’

One option could be limiting their use in the summer months, when people are out and about the most, he said.

“I can hear them from long distances and when I walk on our beautiful trail system,’’ Mea­dors said. “We have a beautiful, bucolic town, and to have this noise going on all the time is not really the way I like to think of Lincoln.’’

In Cambridge, the use of gas-powered leaf blowers is allowed only between March 15 and June 15, and between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31.

Arlington prohibits use of gas-powered leaf blowers on private property from May 15 to Oct. 15. Town Meeting shot down an effort in the fall to revoke the ban, first approved last May. Local landscapers opposed to the ban gathered enough signatures on a petition to force a special election in July in an effort to revoke the ban. A majority of residents voted against the ban, but it wasn’t enough to meet the state requirement for overturning a vote by Town Meeting. A committee has been set up to prepare a new leaf blower proposal for Town Meeting consideration this spring.

Michael Cline, foreman at Lynch Landscape & Tree Service in Sudbury, said he doesn’t think leaf blower restrictions would have a big impact on business. Rather, he said it would hurt customers because they pay by the hour. Cline said workers can get a job done more quickly using blowers than by raking or sweeping.

He said a cleanup that normally takes an hour would likely take close to 90 minutes without leaf blowers.

“They save quite a bit of time,’’ Cline said.

Selectman Peter Braun said Quiet Lincoln members attended a recent meeting to update the board about their efforts. Braun said while he understands their concerns, he doesn’t want the issue to create problems in town. He said selectmen have not received complaints from other residents.

Jennifer Fenn lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.
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