October 27, 2021

Council Passes Ordinance To Ultimately Phase Out Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

By Anne Levin

An ordinance banning the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers during summer and winter months was adopted unanimously by Princeton Council Monday night, capping 10 months of deliberations by several individuals, boards, commissions, and nonprofits involved in the effort.

In a meeting that stretched longer than five hours, Council also heard testimony on the proposed rezoning of two parcels on the campus of The Hun School, and an application by Claridge Wine and Liquor to transfer its liquor license to the former location of Landau’s at 102 Nassau Street, where it would relocate. No final decisions were made on either proposal.

Council also introduced an ordinance enabling the acquisition of a major parcel of open space (see accompanying story).

Princeton was one of nine cities to be awarded a $55,000 Partners for Places grant last December to support work with the landscaping community to adopt practices that protect the health of both the landscapers and the environment. Work on developing an ordinance has been underway since then. Sustainable Princeton, Quiet Princeton, the Princeton Environmental Commission, and the Board of Health have been part of the effort, which was led by Councilmember Eve Niedergang.

“This is an attempt to achieve an environmentally sustainable goal while simultaneously focusing on social justice and racial equity,” Niedergang said. “It’s been a long haul, but we’re here, and I think our project partners are happy to be here and excited about the outcome of moving this forward.”

As part of the plan, the town will hire a code enforcement officer to help make sure landscapers are phasing out gas-powered in favor of electrical equipment. Up to two warnings will be issued before any punitive action is undertaken. “We want to ensure that this is used as an education rather than punitive opportunity,” Niedergang said.

Councilmember Michelle Pirone Lambros asked if the current supply chain crisis would affect the purchase and delivery of electric equipment. Niedergang said that gas-powered equipment is permitted until the end of December, by which time the supply chain issues

will hopefully be resolved. “I think it will be late May or June when the need for an alternative source will really come into play for those who want to use a blower of some kind,” she said.

Several members of the public spoke in favor of the ordinance. Some advocated encouraging homeowners to leave some of their leaves and be less concerned about having a “perfect” lawn. Tammy Sands, chair of the Princeton Environmental Commission, said Council’s endorsement of the ordinance “will establish Princeton as a modern, progressive town that tackles local policy with enhanced approaches inclusive to all, and I include Mother Earth in this, as we strive for an equitably just, sustainable community.”

The Hun School’s request to rezone two parcels on its campus from the R-2 residence district to the E-4 education district, which was endorsed this month by the Planning Board, was challenged by neighbors who said the school’s objective is ultimately for more expansion. Attorney Richard Goldman, who represents the school, said that is not the case.

Three members of Council voted in favor of the application, one voted against it, and two abstained. Municipal attorney Trishka Cecil asked for another day to determine whether a vote by Mayor Mark Freda would be necessary, or the matter should be taken up at another meeting.

In the matter of the liquor license, some local business owners cited deliveries, traffic, littering, and other concerns as a reason for Council to either reject the application or postpone a decision. There were others who spoke in favor of the application. Council voted to table the proposal until more information can be obtained.