Miami Beach moves to outlaw gas-powered leaf blowers by 2022, but final vote needed

·2 min read
José A. Iglesias/Miami Herald

Miami Beach commissioners on Wednesday tentatively approved legislation that would outlaw gas-powered leaf blowers in city limits beginning in late 2022.

The city administration said the ban, which needs final approval by the commission before it can become law, would protect the environment from toxic emissions and stop disruptive noise from the gas-powered motors. A second vote could take place as soon as January.

“This is an exciting day for Miami Beach,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who sponsored the ban.

If approved the city would launch a nine-month public education period beginning in February 2022 to familiarize residents and landscaping companies with the provisions of the ordinance and help them find alternatives to gas-powered leaf blowers. In November 2022, a nine-month warning period would follow, with code compliance officers issuing written warnings for violations of the ban. Full enforcement of the ban, including the issuance of fines, would take effect Aug. 1, 2023.

The leaf-blower ban, proposed to the city by resident group Miami Beach United, would carry fines starting at $250 for first offenses and increasing to $1,000 for third offenses.

Residents and landscaping operators who earn fewer than 80% of the area’s median income — recorded to be about $51,000 by Miami-Dade County in 2020 — may apply for a financial hardship waiver to be exempt from the ban for a 12-month period.

Internally, the city administration said it expects to complete its own transition away from gas-powered leaf blowers by the spring of 2022 following a commission vote in 2017 directing the city administration to replace its gas-powered leaf blowers with electric ones.

If the citywide ban is approved, Miami Beach would become the latest city to ban pollution-spewing leaf blowers.

Cities and towns across South Florida and the U.S., including Washington, D.C., and the state of California, have moved to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in recent years.

In 2018, Key Biscayne banned them. The town of Palm Beach restricted their use in 2017. Other local governments have tried unsuccessfully. A proposed ban was rejected in Fort Lauderdale this year. A similar proposal in Coral Gables was tabled after residents complained about government overreach and possible price increases for landscaping work.

In a memo to the City Commission recommending the ban, City Manager Alina Hudak wrote that leaf blowers pollute the environment with toxic emissions and lead to noise complaints. Electric leaf blowers have been found to be 13% to 28% quieter than gas-powered blowers, she wrote.

Hudak would be able to temporarily suspend the ban if there is a hurricane, tropical storm or other “extreme weather event” to allow the use of gas-powered leaf blowers for debris cleanup.

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