Town Meeting logoProgress plods on

UPDATED May 11: Town Meeting, during session five on Monday, May 9, voted in favor of Article 17 (regulation of gas-powered leaf blowers).

Here is the annotated warrant for tonight's Special Town Meeting >> It contains vote language, comments and links to reports and presentations, including ARB video presentations for Articles 2 and 4.

Moderator Greg Christiana on May 11 issued this letter about hastening debate:

"As I mentioned at the opening of Monday's meeting, we're behind the pace that we're going to need to finish by June 20, which is the deadline for us to have a budget in time for the new fiscal year.

"To help us pick up the pace, I'm going to try something new tonight. When we get 15 minutes into debate on an article, once the current speaker has finished, I'll call for a straw poll using raised hands in Zoom to poll how many members are interested in terminating debate. I'd like these straw polls to finish in about 30 seconds, which is a lot faster than official votes which take about 4 minutes.

"If the number of hands from the straw poll is 75% or more, then I'll invite one of the members who raised their hand to move to terminate debate, and we'll proceed to take an official vote to terminate debate which requires a two-thirds vote.

"If the number from the straw poll in Zoom is less than 75%, then we'll resume debate. Speakers in the speaker queue are still free to move to terminate debate at any time; you don't need to wait for my straw polls to trigger termination of debate. I'll continue with these straw polls no more than once every 15 minutes during debate. After tonight's meeting and before we reconvene on Monday, I will consider whether to keep, adjust, or abandon this practice." 

Watch the ACMi video of the May 9 Town Meeting:


The final vote on the main motion, which includes four amendments, was 187-44 without abstention. The four approved amendments are:

  • Goodwin amendment No. 1: Changes the prohibition date from June 15 to May 31; the commercial and municipal users’ transition period from gas-powered to electric from May 31, 2022 to March 15, 2025; the end date for resident users from March 15, 2025, to March 15, 2026. Town Counsel Doug Heim said the Select Board’s vote intent for resident users during the transition provides an extra year to transition from gas-powered to electric leaf blowers. (Vote: 183-48 without abstention.) 
  • Goodwin amendment No. 2: Adds the words “of an acre or more” in reference to wheeled leaf blowers powered by four-stroke engines in clearing the Minuteman Bikeway and other municipal properties to which the restriction applies. (Vote: 178-55, one abstention.)
  • Brown amendment: Prohibits leaf-blower use on Saturdays, not just Sundays and legal holidays, on commercial and municipal properties during the transition period. (Vote: 151-81, three abstentions.)
  • Diggins amendment: Adds that electric-powered leaf blowers may be operated by all users after the transition period at the following times: Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Vote: 169-62, three abstentions.)
Not approved

The following amendment was not approved:

  • Friedman amendment: During the transition period from gas-powered to electric, gas-powered leaf blowers are not restricted to the calendar dates from Goodwin amendment No. 1, now incorporated into the main motion. Had it been approved, this amendment would no longer include the calendar date restriction of March 15 to May 31 and Sept. 15 to Dec. 30 by residents while on their own property. (Vote: 45-183, six abstentions.)
Expressing support

Voters in favor of this amendment:

Patricia Muldoon (20): “The noise issue is a health issue. The decibel level of gas-powered leaf blowers is so high that the World Health Organization has come out against them. The noise level is intense, and can cause headaches, as well as increase depression and anxiety. More than 100 Massachusetts towns have already banned gas-powered blowers, including our neighbors Lexington, Winchester and Belmont. We must address not only our health, but the health of the world.”

Elisabeth Carr-Jones (14): “I support this article. Most of us live in neighborhoods where one resident affects many homeowners. The landscapers use gas-powered leaf blowers and the provisions are not universally followed, and violations are not always reported. People may be uncomfortable contacting the police about their neighbors’ use, so it’s difficult to know when violations occur. Once gas–powered leaf blowers are phased out, the violations will be much easier to notice.” 

Mona Mandal (9): “I live in a low-income/disabled/elderly neighborhood, and the constant droning noise of gas-blowing leaf blowers exacerbates many peoples’ physical and mental health issues. Electric leaf blowers are better, just as powerful and cost the same. The voiceless, vulnerable residents urge you to support this article.”

Opposing the measure

Voters against this amendment

Edward Trembley (19): “This regulation is unnecessary. Electric-powered leaf blowers move only half the air and cost $300 more than gas-powered, not including the batteries, which need several per day, doubling or tripling landscapers’ equipment costs. When electric leaf blowers can hold their own, and are better than gas ones, people will go out and get them. Let progress take its natural course, and don’t try to force something on the public that’s not ready for prime time. For those concerned about the noise, ask the landscaper to sweep sidewalks and use rakes.”

Joseph Kerble (13) gave his time to Gary Tibbetts, a former resident and past Precinct 5 meeting member. Because Tibbetts no longer lives in Arlington, this needed — and received — Town Meeting approval.” 

Tibbetts: “Born and raised in Arlington, I started and operated Tibbetts landscaping for 40 years. I’m not against electric leaf blowers, but the technology is not here yet. The battery runtime is only 35 to 40 minutes, and it takes several hours to recharge them. Landscapers can get four yards done per day using gas-powered blowers, but only three with electricity. If you use the right equipment and ear protection, it doesn’t present a problem.” 

The meeting resumes Wednesday, May 11, with the Special Town Meeting.

Further details from session five will be reported.

Added to annotated warrant May 9

Article 16: Moderator summary of main motion and 5 amendments

Article 16: Diggins Amendment

Article 16: Letter from Josh Lobel, Precinct 8

Arlington leaf-blower history

A timeline provided by Paul Schlichtman (9)
2008 Town Meeting

The first attempt to regulate leaf blowers came in the 2008 Annual Town Meeting.

Article 25, a 10 registered voter warrant article (Carol Band was the lead proponent), was supported unanimously with a recommended vote by the Board of Selectmen. Their recommendation:

The Board supports a favorable recommendation under this article submitted by 10 registered voters. The Board agrees with the proponents that the utilization of leave blowers, if not regulated, will continue to cause considerable excessive noise in many neighborhoods in the Town. The Board is grateful to the Noise Abatement Study Committee for their assistance in fashioning a new bylaw. The Committee looked to several other communities as to the manner in which those communities regulate leaf blowers. The Board recommends favorable action. 

The Selectmen proposed a bylaw amendment that would have prohibited the use of leaf blowers on Sundays and Legal Holidays. It would have restricted their use to the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays. The bylaw would have prohibited the use of leaf blowers louder that 65 dB(A) measured at a distance of 50 feet.

When the article came up for debate, the Selectmen changed their recommendation and presented an amendment to change weekend hours so that leaf blowers would be permitted on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

Carol Band offered an amendment to ban gasoline powered leaf blowers, requiring the use of electric machines.

John Worden offered an amendment to change the weekday start time from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

The Worden and Band amendments were defeated by voice vote. The Selectmen’s amendment was approved by a 77-76 standing vote. The amended motion failed on a 72-97 voice vote. 

Primary sources:

Dan Dunn, Session 3 >>

Dan Dunn, Session 4 >>

Town of Arlington, 2008 Town Meeting >>

2012 Town Meeting

The next attempt to regulate leaf blowers came in the 2012 Annual Town Meeting.

Article 25 was a 10 registered voter warrant article (Carol Band was the lead proponent). Proponents did not make a presentation to the Board of Selectmen, and the board recommended no action under the article.

Carol Band offered a substitute motion to ban the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers. Bob Radochia offered a different substitute motion, which he described as a compromise, to prohibit the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers from May 15 to October 15, permitting them during the time of the year when there are leaves that need to be cleared from Arlington properties. 

Town Meeting rejected the Band substitute by voice vote, approved the Radochia substitute 84-81 and enacted the bylaw as substituted 95-85.

Primary sources:

Dan Dunn, Session 6 >>

Dan Dunn, Session 7 >>

2012 Referendum: Landscapers force a vote on the new bylaw

Massachusetts law (MGL Chapter 43A, Section 10) offers voters the opportunity to challenge a Representative Town Meeting vote by requesting a referendum. State law allows 3% of the registered voters of a town to call for a referendum. In 2012, petitioners were required to submit 864 signatures; the landscapers collected and submitted 1,053 certified signatures.

The landscapers organized a ballot committee, Arlington Landscape and Business Owners Association, which raised $12,750 for an aggressive campaign. They had a huge task ahead of them. In order to overturn the Town Meeting vote, they needed 20% of the voters to cast a NO vote in a special election where the polls were open from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. State law requires a referendum to be scheduled “forthwith,” and the Board of Selectmen scheduled the referendum for July 19. 

While the Arlington Landscape and Business Owners Association actively encouraged absentee voting, and spread posters and lawn signs around the town, the proponents of the bylaw made a tactical decision to downplay the vote. They didn’t want a YES campaign to grab the attention of voters against the bylaw, drawing them out to vote.

Two interesting YourArlington articles were published before the leaf-blower referendum:

YES >>

NO >>

The Arlington Landscape and Business Owners Association filed two financial disclosure statements, listing 

Financial disclosures for Arlington Landscape and Business Owners:

8 days before election $11,225 total receipts >>

30 days after election - $1,500 total receipts >>

The votes are in

At the time of the referendum, there were 28,898 registered voters in Arlington. 5,780 NO votes were required to reject the vote of Town Meeting. The July 19 referendum results:

YES (Supporting the vote of Town Meeting): 2,619 (32.1%)

NO (Rejecting the vote of Town Meeting): 5,539 (67.9%)

The NO votes were 241 votes short of the requirement under state law. (PS)

 Town website >>

YourArlington >>

Second attempt at repeal: A Special Town Meeting

Soon after the effort to repeal the bylaw by referendum was unsuccessful, Stephen Harrington exercised his right to call a Special Town Meeting under MGL Chapter 39 Section 10 by submitting 200 signatures to the Select Board. The selectmen were less than enthused by the need to call the Special Town Meeting, which they scheduled for Oct. 10.

YourArlington >>

There was a rare roll-call vote on Article 3 of the Special Town Meeting, which voted to reject a substitute motion by Harrington (95-110) to repeal the leaf blower bylaw. It is interesting to note the votes of current TMMs who were in Town Meeting in 2012.

Town Meeting approved the Board of Selectmen’s recommendation to create a leaf blower committee, for the purpose of crafting an additional compromise. Committee membership was to consist of four members of the Arlington Landscape Association, four Town Meeting members, four Arlington residents and one selectman.

Town website >>

YourArlington >>

The Leaf Blower Committee reports to the 2013 Town Meeting

The Board of Selectmen scheduled a Special Town Meeting for the Leaf Blower article, as they didn’t want to wait until the end of the Annual Town Meeting for the vote to take effect. The new bylaw eliminated the summer ban on leaf blowers, replacing it with a ban on their use on Sundays.

Christian Klein wrote about the compromise bylaw presented by the leaf blower committee:

It appears that the compromise committee that was put into effect after last fall's special meeting was sharply divided between the landscaping representatives and the restriction proponents.  My opinion from reading the proposal and listening to the presentations was that the "compromise" was very heavily weighted towards the opponents of the restrictions.  As one member pointed out, going from 150 days without blowers to only 15 isn't meeting in the middle.

Leaf Blower Committee member Michael Ruderman was quoted by Dan Dunn as giving a “minority opinion of one." Ruderman said the committee “was driven by people with a financial interest, and not enough input from non-landscaper experts.”

Town Meeting approved the recommended vote of the Leaf Blower Committee, 113-95. The current bylaw is the result of this vote.

Christian Klein >>

Dan Dunn >>

For the 2022 Town Meeting, the public may also read notes on session 5 by Christian Klein (10) >>

Town Meeting information at town website | YourArlington Town Meeting information

This news announcement was published Monday, May 9, 2022, and a timeline added that day. It was updated May 10 with a new lead, and later in the day details by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, as well as May 11, to add an ACMi video window.

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