As dead leaves begin to blanket the ground this fall, a Saanich resident calling for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers is gearing up for one last push for support before going to council.
In August 2019, researcher and former council candidate Teale Phelps Bondaroff unveiled a petition calling on the district to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, support a program to recycle the “obsolete machines” and modernize the municipality’s noise bylaw to regulate electric leaf blowers.
After garnering hundreds of signatures, Phelps Bondaroff planned to present the petition to Saanich council in February.
When COVID-19 began to spread, he decided to press pause and give council space to tackle issues related to the pandemic.
Now that the provincial snap election is over, Phelps Bondaroff feels the time is right to revitalize efforts. He plans to begin circulating the petition again to “give people a last chance to sign on and have their voices heard” before presenting the signatures to council.
With leaf blower season in full swing and more people spending their days at home due to COVID-19, he’s seen an influx in support for the petition as residents become aware of the “acute noise pollution” created by gas leaf blowers.
Noise is a less obvious form of pollution that’s often overlooked, Phelps Bondaroff said. He added that gas leaf blowers create emissions and scatter dust particles that harm the environment and have negative impacts on those with respiratory issues.
Electric leaf blowers create fewer emissions and are quieter, he said, noting his own strata recently made the switch and residents are no longer woken up by the growl of gas leaf blowers.
Saanich’s noise bylaw limits what loud machines are permitted, when they can be used and who can use them but it hasn’t been updated since 1993, is difficult to enforce and doesn’t explicitly regulate leaf blowers, Phelps Bondaroff said. He feels “the responsible thing would be to at least review [the bylaw]” and look to other municipalities for options.
Oak Bay Coun. Tara Ney is pushing for a similar ban on gas leaf blowers in that municipality and Vancouver has banned all leaf blowers on Sundays and in the West End neighbourhood has restricted use to daytime hours.
Phelps Bondaroff also noted municipal staff are currently exempt from Saanich’s noise bylaw but he hopes to see the district look at its own fleet and consider transitioning to electric models.