Orange City Council members might again consider regulating how loud leaf blowers can be, potentially forcing landscapers and homeowners to ensure the equipment is city certified or face a fine. 

While the city council couldn’t reach a consensus last week on a proposed law revision after resident complaints against the gardening equipment, questions surfaced over how effective it would be.

And at least one councilman questioned if the proposal’s goal is to penalize low-income landscapers for trying to make a living. 

“They’re already struggling in this community and in our state,” Councilman Jon Dumitru said at the May 23 meeting. 

“That’s what the goal is here – is to go after these independent people that are gardeners and find another way to regulate the amount of business. Is that the goal?”

Supporters on the dais say changes will give the current ordinance teeth against noisy leaf blowers while critics question if an ordinance is even needed due to an expected state law banning the sale of gas powered leaf blowers starting next year.

“I don’t expect policing of this, I don’t expect a significant uptick in calls. But I do think this will allow the initial intent of that regulation to have some level of enforceability, which is regulating some of the noise,” Councilman John Gyllenhammer said in support of the ordinance.

Councilman Denis Bilodeau spoke against the ordinance and said code enforcement should focus on other unspecified issues.

“We pass ordinances to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents. And I guess this would fall under welfare. I don’t see leaf blowers as a burning issue,” he said.

Bilodeau also pointed to a new state law banning the sale of gas powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers, expected to take effect next year.

“This issue is going to sort of take care of itself,” he said. “I just don’t want us as the government criminalizing basic activities like this. I think it’s fruitless.”

Mayor Dan Slater called the current ordinance worthless and agreed revisions would make it into something that benefits residents.

Council members did not approve any changes to the ordinance at their meeting last Tuesday, but the proposal could come back at a later date.

“Perhaps we could continue to tweak this a little bit more,” said Slater. “Maybe at some point in the future, Councilman Gyllenhammer, you might want to bring it back and you can have another shot at it.”

Officials called for a revised ordinance on leaf blowers in March after residents made noise complaints during public comment, according to a city staff report.

The proposed ordinance prepared by city staff would lower the maximum allowed decibels for a leaf blower from 70 to 65 measured at a horizontal distance of 50 feet. A 65 decibel or lower leaf blower would be deemed city certified.

It would also reduce hours leaf blowers are allowed to operate on Saturdays, and would extend liability to property owners as well as gardeners for violations. Gardeners and landscapers would have to prove the maximum noise level of their leaf blower.

Councilwoman Kathy Tavoularis questioned why the property owner would also receive a violation and called for it to be removed from the proposed revisions.

“I just feel uncomfortable with the property owner part,” she said. 

Bilodeau said it was not practical to make residents ensure their gardeners are using a city approved lawnmower.

“It’d be very awkward for me as a homeowner to confront my landscaper and ask and look at his leaf blower and examine his tools to understand what model they are. I’m just not going to do that. And I’m not going to put the onus on other residents to do that,” he said.

Dumitru questioned how the city – which owns and maintains parks in residential neighborhoods – won’t violate the proposed ordinance with their contracted landscapers.

“We violate this ordinance now,” he said. “It’s unenforceable, especially against our own contractors.”

City Attorney Mary Binning said city contractors would be brought up to speed if the proposed ordinance is passed.

She also said, to her knowledge, no one has received a violation under the current leaf blower ordinance but that the proposed ordinance would be easier to enforce than the current one in place.

“You can see right off the bat if a leaf blower is certified and we’re requiring certified leaf blowers so it would be easier to enforce,” she said.

Yet she contends there would still be challenges sending out code enforcement in response to a call to police an activity that doesn’t take a long time to complete.

“There’s built in difficulties in enforcing a noise ordinance against a transient activity,” she said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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