Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Paper Source, Cable Monopoly …

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Leaf blowers — those must-have yet most-hated suburban scourges — are the subject of a proposed Representative Town Meeting regulation.

The RTM Ordinance Committee meets March 25 (7:30 p.m., conference call). They’ll discuss these rules:

  • Summer (May 16-October 14): Gas-powered leaf blowers not permitted; electric/battery-powered leaf blowers allowed.
  • Fall cleanups (October 15-November 30): Gas- and electric/battery-powered blowers allowed.
  • Winter (December 1-March 31): Gas-powered blowers not permitted; electric/battery-powered blowers allowed.
  • Spring cleanups (April 1-May 15): Gas- and electric/battery-powered blowers allowed.

In addition:

  • No leaf blower of any kind may be used before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
  • No more than 1 leaf blower (regardless of power source) may be used simultaneously on any site less than 2 acres in size.
  • No gas-powered leaf blower may be used on any state or federal holiday.
  • Exceptions: If the 1st Selectman declares an emergency, then gas-powered leaf blowers and/or electric/battery-powered leaf blowers may be used as necessary.

Fines (property owner is responsible):

  • $100 for 1st offense (after a warning)
  • $200 for 2nd offense
  • $500 250 for third or subsequent offense.

The public can call in to the meeting: 646-876 9923. The meeting ID is 850 4769 6393. The passcode is 788806.

 

 

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Paper Source — the Chicago-based stationery store chain — closed 11 stores in the past year.

The downtown Westport shop — between Bank of America and Barnes & Noble — remains open.

It is corporate owned. A recent story on the Well-Appointed Desk blog notes that headquarters “bought a bunch of product from small makers, declared bankruptcy so they would not have to pay the bills, then sell it in the stores for 100% profit.”

It’s great to shop local. But caveat emptor: Supporting this Westport business may mean complicating situations with its corporate owner. (Click here for the full story.)

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The weather’s nice. Time to get the kids moving!

The Joggers Club has opened a group for youngsters. Led by experienced runners, the focus is on form, endurance and fun.

It “runs” Sundays, 2 to 3:15 p.m., April 4 to May 2 at the Staples High School track.

Space is limited to 20 children, grades 3 to 8. The cost is $50 per child.

The Venmo account is “TheJoggersClub-Westport.” Questions? Email thejoggersclub@gmail.com.

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This evening Wednesday, March 10, 6:45 p.m.), Congressman Jim Himes hosts a “telephone town hall.” He’ll discuss the American Rescue Plan. Audience members can ask questions during the call. Click here for the link.

Congressman Jim Himes, at Bedford Middle School.

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Looking for another COVID test center?

There’s an under-the-radar spot right under our noses. Yale New Haven Health operates a drive-through operation at 140 Mill Plain Road in Fairfield, just off I-95 Exit 21.

Hours are by appointment only. Click here for more information, or call 833-275-9644. (Hat tip: Carol Waxman)

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Westport’s MaryGrace Gudis is one of 4 new members of Norwalk Hospital’s board of directors.

Director of the Norwalk Hospital Foundation Board since 2011, she has spent more than 1,000 hours researching and compiling the hospital’s history.

Active at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, MaryGrace is also involved in initiatives providing college educational assistance to disadvantaged students.

The Southern Methodist University graduate has held senior communications positions in the financial industry, including director of public information and senior liaison to the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank. Her husband Mark is on the board of directors for Nuvance Health, Norwalk Hospital’s parent company.

MaryGrace Gudis

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Last month, “06880” reported that the Tristate Coalition for Fair Internet Service is working on legal challenges to Optimum/Altice through the New York State Attorney General’s office, and promoting alternate providers. They’re also collecting data on customer experiences with the longtime cable service.

That survey data was lost when Google disabled the account without the group’s knowledge. They’re appealing. Meanwhile, they created a new survey.

They ask people to complete the Optimum/Altice survey, even if it was already done before. Click here for the link.

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The Webb Road goose is ready for every holiday. Next up: St. Patrick’s Day!

(Photo/MaryLou Roels)

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And finally … exactly one year ago today, COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

You know: WHO.

40 responses to “Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Paper Source, Cable Monopoly …

  1. This leaf blowers issue is not simple. I hate the noise too, and I like the idea of limiting noise from 9 to 5. Maybe never on Sundays?

    BUT- electric blowers are expensive, their batteries give out pretty quickly, and they lack power. A rule like this would force all the small business lawn care companies to spend sums they can’t afford for electric equipment, many extra batteries, and it will take much added manpower for lawn care employees to use this inferior equipment.

    Are Westporters happy to pay very high upcharges to help our lawn care companies to retool to electric and add man hours to do the same work they do now? Or do we want to try to force these small businesses to hold their current costs per cut or blow and severely damage their bottom lines? I hope not.

    A transition to greener, quieter equipment is a good idea, but that equipment doesn’t exist yet in commercially viable, affordable form. At least let’s not crush these small, often “minority owned” (I use quotes in the event this is not the right term today) businesses with an ill-conceived law. We need to give this more thought.

    • Sorry to disagree with Mr. Broadbent. The latest tools are no longer more expensive, The batteries perform well and are long lived. The electric tools are more reliable then the gas powered ones, require almost no maintenance. Quiet, efficient, powerful, Eco-friendly and virtually noiseless by comparison. Consumer reports has written extensively on this.
      Each of us is surrounded by at least 4 neighbors homes, which means that one or the other property is being serviced at any point in every nice day almost year round. I work from home and for about 9-10 months of the year I must put up with hearing armies of lawn guys surrounding me with noise. It’s quieter in NYC, I know because i grew up there. How am I so sure of what I say? I have purchased, tested, and personally used most of the battery powered lawn tools and am VERY happy with them. No gas to buy, no noise, no maintenance. My favorite is the battery powered (noiseless) Chain Saw …and my Snow (noiseless) Blower a close second. Try it before you trash the idea of living with no more noise! I can only guess that you are not at home during the day to understand how bad it really is….for all of us…Family, friends, & neighbors… and in so many ways. Frankly it seems the concern is with how much you pay for your lawn services, It is a trap of human nature we all want things to get better but nothing to change. on the issue of the people who do the work, they are the ones that suffer the worst of it, not the people who own the businesses. Noise pollution, Air pollution, etc. now if you proposed how to keep all those Lawn Service trucks from double parking on the streets creating obstructions and trash I’m all ears (pun intended)

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      I would agree that this needs additional thought. I suppose when it’s someone else’s time and money, it’s easy to make declarations about how people should be limited.

      A ban after 5PM is ridiculous in the summer and fall months. Am I supposed to not be able to clean up myself after work? I can’t afford a crew every time there is a storm (and not every storm that creates a mess would result in an emergency,) so I frequently have to go out and do the leaves myself. Under these proposed rules, I can’t do any weekday cleanup because I don’t get finished with work until 5:30. (I could only rake a small portion of my small yard in the period after work and sunset. If it’s light out until 8:30PM, give me time to use my blower until dusk! I might not take 4 weeks to get things back to a usable state, if I am not limited to only cleaning up during banker’s hours on the weekends. I suspect that we would be accused of neglecting our property and creating a blight if we didn’t clean up, either!

      I purchased a good battery powered blower from Home Depot last fall and 4 batteries, and I can’t even get an hour out of all of them. (This was over a $300 investment, which isn’t cheap.) The batteries take several hours to recharge also. I bought this one because the corded blower we inherited from my husband’s grandfather in 2003 finally died. (I couldn’t reach the edges of our property even with the extension cords that we have.) The technology is better than it’s ever been, but stating that they’re long lived is certainly straining the bounds of credulity for anyone with experience.

      And as my husband pointed out, for fall cleanups, a crew of at least 3 people are usually sent out, A limit of just 1 blower on a property less than 2 acres (!!!) will just cause one person to now take 3 hours to do what could be done with three people in 1 hour! BE REASONABLE HERE!

    • Glad you looked into it, the Landscape (pun intended) for these tools is emerging (more punning) fast. Grainger is not the last word on this. Commercially there is now even unmanned robotic 48″-60″ solar powered mowers for commercial Golf courses. Soon the price point will be homeowner friendly.(imagine getting rid of your lawn company) There will be a natural attrition of the gas tools as they sputter out,, but I’d rather preserve my peace of mind now and push it along with reasonable & rational laws that encourage their use rather then penalize gas users.(always a bad idea to prevent use (look how the war on drugs went)
      We have already incentivized changing your light bulbs to LED’s why not all electric/solar, incentives for tools? Everybody wins.

  2. I’m all in for limiting the use of gas powered leaf blowers to help limit our carbon footprint on the environment as well as ease the noise in town. But as a town are we saying we are more concerned with negative effects of gas powered leaf blowers than we are with allowing one after another huge Condominium projects to be built throughout our town? It seems hypocritical. The extra traffic along with over utilization of our town resources will far exceed the negative effects that noise/ air pollution will produce from leaf blowers. I worry that our once beautiful and quant town is continuing to quickly fade, but lets all rally behind eliminating gas leaf blowers.

  3. I’m sure Westporters don’t mind paying quite a bit more. Backpack blowers have become essential and do a great job. Try putting it to a vote!

    • Not all of us are rich. Not all of us can afford new and spendy technology, and not all of us have the ability to hire someone to clean up, even after working full time jobs.

      This is classist.

  4. The YNHHS site at 140 Mill Plain is convenient; two lanes, in car, outdoors. Narrow swab five seconds up (far up) each nostril. National Guard assisting. Test results in 24-48 hours, it is said. On a recent day, no line. MyChart results. Free.

    Also the Hartford Hospital site at the Harbor Yard garage in Bridgeport. One lane testing 3 or 4 cars at a time, with plenty of line space in the garage and a portapotti. Fat swab not as far up each nostril. Test results 3-5 days, but anecdotally much less. On a recent day, 3 car line. MyChart results. Free.

  5. People today are obsessed with moving every fallen leaf. We used to use a tool called a “rake” for the leaves that really needed moving. And we did it ourselves. But some leaves are good for the lawn.

  6. Here we go yet again. I’ve lost count on how many times this has been raised. Limited hours during the day is a palatable idea however anything else (including no gas blowers) is over reaching. Everyone is fine with their typical, multiple, Westport gas-guzzling SUVs but let’s focus on leaf blowers. Why stop there? Why not lawn mowers as well? They’re used all Summer, not just at leaf cleanup time. Here’s an idea….move to the city……….please!

  7. Thanks for the support Dan! We just logged ~20 new responses to the survey in the past hour!

    Thank you to everyone who responded to our Altice/Optimum survey. you can reach us for inquiries at info@tscfis.org.

  8. Be careful what you wish for folks. Willingly giving up personal freedoms often does not end well. I care for my own property, I enjoy it and it has the added benefit of saving me a few dollars. While I tend to blow the leaves within those (proposed) time parameters I don’t intend to check the clock before doing so.

  9. Isabelle Breen

    Is this suggesting all the homeowners who have their own gas blowers can’t use them?

  10. Kristin Schneeman

    Thanks for highlighting this upcoming proposal, Dan! Looking forward to the dialogue with the community. I will say that we based this proposal on models that have worked well for years in over 200 communities in the US, and tailored it to work for Westport, we believe. Gas-powered leaf blowers are uniquely detrimental to human health from both the noise and pollution, as well as to the environment, and we are looking forward to making that case. (They are actually far worse than your SUV, believe it or not.) Electric and battery-powered equipment has come a long way and down in cost over the last few years.

    The Ordinance Committee meeting on the 25th is just the first step, and looks strictly at the language of the proposal and whether it’s legal, appropriate, etc. There will follow at least a couple of other Committees, such as Health & Human Services, that will look at the substance of the proposal and make recommendations, and the full RTM will then debate it, so plenty of opportunities for input remain. I did want to correct one detail of the proposal you reported, which is that the maximum fine would be $250, not $500, as that is the maximum that can be imposed in Westport.

  11. Great tunes!

  12. In response to some of the other commentators, especially Mr. Yurkiw, I spoke with Grainger about commercial-grade lawncare equipment, and it looks like there is some good news here– as he said. Grainger says that there are decent, commercial grade electric lawncare devices listed below, supposedly with decent battery life- I have had the same experience with expensive batteries, with limited life, as Ms. Thibault:

    Leaf blowers (!)
    String trimmers
    Lawn edgers
    Small chain and pole saws (8″)

    There are only 21″ battery push mowers, the ride-ons we see around are 50″ they said.

    So perhaps there is a somewhat painless situation if there is a phase-in (not immediate switch) to electric leaf blowers, only, and an evening limit that allows people to come home from work and do some leaf blowing, but not too late.

    It’s not as bad as I thought, but still needs work.

    Mr. Vogel brings up a good point, though!

  13. The leaf blower ordinance looks like a great way for wealthy white people to virtue signal at the expense of less well-to-do not-so-white people.

  14. As a resident and having a Landscaping Co for over 30 years in this Town I’ve been watching complaints on other local sites since the Covid virus hit over leaf blowers …. The main complaint was Noise and how annoying that is for all those who normally do not work from home …. I’m sure many of the complainants live in neighborhoods of fairly large sized properties where multiple Landscapers are grooming these lawns to pristine condition on a weekly basis and some of those who complain have Landscapers as well on there properties … The environmental concerns became the tool to legitimize this action and bring light to this proposal…. Apparently no one has thought about the small businesses that don’t have the money to purchase new blowers but I guess that doesn’t matter to those pushing this agenda who sit comfortably in there homes on there Zoom calls with no worries except whether they are annoyed by the Noise of a blower while there landscaper just wants to feed his family ….. I want to know who’s policing this ordinance are neighbors going to start reporting each other, what happens when there are trees after Nov 30 that there leaves haven’t let go yet as happens often, the weekends including Sundays are often the only time you can work at commercial properties to blow off and clean up while they are empty ….. Is there anyone who actually thought out some of these scenarios since I’m sure none are actual Landscapers on these boards who have any idea the impact this will have on many levels besides financially to so many trying to make a living …..

  15. Gabby Bockhaus

    It would be amazing to lower the emissions from those horrible gas powered leaf blowers. They are dangerous to the operator and to the homeowners, and especially to children in the yards. The exhaust stays ALL DAY. And causes lung issues and cancer. Please do ban their use in the summer.

  16. The leaf blowers are noisy all day long and their emissions are highly polluting. Many communities have already addressed the problem by changing their regulations. It makes sense to make changes here in Westport now that better equipment is available.

  17. All them crying over how the rich (and white?) folks are trying to save the planet and our ear drums from the ridiculous pollution and noise of gas powered blowers need not burden their non caring minds about a leaf blower ordinance of consequence. Neither the RTM nor the First Select board has the balls to write or enforce any meaningful regulation.

  18. Jill Totenberg

    This is long overdue. The town needs to act—just like Greenwich, Larchmont, and others have done—to protect residents and workers from the noise—esp. as we are working and learning from home.

  19. Peter Jennings

    There are already noise regulations in place and that is all that is needed. This regulation will cause more noise as it will take longer to do clean ups, and will cost more. And besides there is a long list of other noisy equipment besides leaf blowers….

    • Peter, the 2 cycle leaf blower has long been proven to be the most polluting and the highest decible level machine commonly used by both homeowners and “landscapers.” No other engine used comes close. Just sayin’.

    • We really don’t have much in the way of effective noise regulations. What we have are regs regulating (for instance) construction hours so that people aren’t subjected to construction noise before 7:00. Whether one is for or against these regulations, the specificity helps.

  20. Cornelia Fortier

    We support the gas powered leaf blower ban. In many towns, these blowers are completely banned but the proposal being considered here is a moderate one.

  21. There needs to be some restrictions, but they need to be reasonable. Let them be used for fall and spring cleanup within certain hours, but no need to have them blasting away in the summer months. There is no need to have 5 workers in a circle blowing one leaf back and forth as now seems happens. Better for them and certainly better for the environment and the lawn.

  22. Catherine Stone

    We all have different tolerances. Projected noise, like gas blowers, seriously bothers a lot of people — but does NOT bother others at all. Just like barking dogs, loud music and smoke from fire pits, your right to use your property should absolutely extend to the borders of your property without interference from your government.

    HOWEVER, your rights as a property owner should extend NO further than your own property lines. Therefore, your right to have a pristine yard can not supersede my right to have peaceful yard. Please vote to support any ban on noise and fumes.

  23. I support an ordinance concerning leaf blowers the noise has become a nuisance

  24. Malcolm Frampton

    I support a leaf blower ban for all of Connecticut. I my neighborhood in Greenwich, it has gotten to the point when it is rare that you do NOT hear a blower. I am a gardener and I am beginning to dread spring…so sad. See the link to an Atlantic article:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/04/james-fallows-leaf-blower-ban/583210/

    • Kristin Schneeman

      Thank you for sharing that great article, Malcolm! There is a lot of important information and data in it (and James Fallows is a wonderful writer, so it’s an enjoyable read). If the entire city of Washington, DC can go without gas-powered leaf blowers entirely, it seems like we should be able to take a less sweeping step here in Westport and just limit their use!

    • For those not able to read the article this is the 3 min video that sums it up.
      https://youtu.be/Lf-RxgPTflk

  25. Thank You Tom Broadbent, Mary Purcell, Catherine Stone as well as all others who have an educated brain and can account for all factors when it comes to critical decision making!
    As for the others’, do you really believe that our local community landscaping businesses should incur the cost of purchasing new equipment and being forced to “eat the cost” of all the equipment that they have spent an exorbitant amount of money purchasing over the years??? Not to mention the fact that they will be forced to spend more time on each property in order to make up for the sub-par electrical equipment and reduced manpower in order to comply with these preposterous limitations!
    As far as the noise, I can recommend some landscape supply companies where you can purchase noise blocking ear muffs- I’m sure they would all be happy to take your money. Most properties require 2-3 blowers in order to efficiently expedite one clean-up for each homeowner. Less time on the property= less time for you to listen to the machinery. This proposal will not only require these small businesses to hire more laborers but will also force them to reduce their client services and be unable to take on more customers. That will, by all means, require a significant increase their prices-
    which will negatively affect us ALL (if you don’t care about hurting the less fortunate, maybe ur own pockets will stimulate a change of perspective)- Shame on you!
    Do you also propose that painters use electric power washers? How about proposing that every homeowner in Westport should rip apart their houses and go green? C’mon
    And we all need to do our part in saving the environment, but this is certainly not the way to go about it.

  26. Hi Dan!
    Any updates on the proposed leaf blower,(noise/pollution) proposals??

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