New Princeton ordinance limits gas leaf blower use to certain months, restricts hours for use of lawnmowers and other equipment

The Princeton Council voted unanimously on Monday night to approve an ordinance almost a year in the making that allows gas leaf blowers to be used at certain times during peak yard clean-up seasons in the fall and spring, and bans them other times of the year. The ordinance, which has different clauses for various pieces of equipment, also sets hours for when gas, electric, and battery-powered lawn care equipment, including lawnmowers, can be used. The ordinance was created to cut down on noise and improve the environment.

Gas-powered leaf blowers and other gas lawn equipment can be used from March 15 to May 15 and from Oct. 1 to Dec. 15 each year, except on Sundays and on Thanksgiving. Gas-powered leaf blowers can be used from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays during the two annual peak use periods.

Power lawnmowers, electric or battery-powered leaf blowers, and other electric or battery-powered lawn equipment such as chain saws and hedge trimmers are allowed to be used year-round from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays and certain holidays. The only exception regarding chainsaw use after hours is when a chainsaw is used in response to an emergency, for example, a storm.

The use of other gas-powered equipment such as blowers, power fans, internal combustion engines, including chainsaws, snowblowers, and portable generators is banned on Sundays, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The equipment can be used from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Snow blowers can be used other hours in the event of a storm, and power generators can be used during power outages caused by a natural disaster.

Buses, trucks, and tractors are not allowed to be warmed up near homes between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and vehicles and motorcycles are not allowed to “unnecessarily” and repeatedly idle, accelerate, start, or stop from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Any outdoor concert requires a permit from the municipal administrator.

A repeat violator of the ordinance will face fines. The grace period after the enactment of the ordinance is 90 days. Two written warning notices will be issued during the grace period before fines are levied. After the grace period, one written warning notice will be issued.

A sustainable landscaping committee met for about 10 months to come up with the recommendations. The town will spend $10,000 next year for ads and materials to be distributed to landscapers so they are aware of the new rules, Councilwoman Eve Niedergang said.

Molly Jones of Sustainable Princeton said the organization hopes to raise $35,000 to buy some battery-powered leaf blowers for landscapers who can’t afford them. The citizen group Quiet Princeton that lobbied for the new ordinance has agreed to contribute $2,500 to the fund. Some residents suggested that Sustainable Princeton use money given to the organization to fund a gas-powered equipment buyback program to encourage people to use battery or electric-powered equipment.

Tammy Sands of the Princeton Environmental Commission said the ordinance is not just about gas leaf blowers or a one-to-one replacement of gas-powered equipment with electric or battery-powered tools. “The council’s endorsement will establish Princeton as a modern, progressive town that tackles local policy with enhanced approaches, inclusive to all, and I will include Mother Earth in this, as we strive for an equally just sustainable community, as a first step in the transition to sustainable landscaping.”

Karen Zemble of the environmental commission said the ordinance is a great first step in protecting the health and safety of workers by regulating the use of gas-powered equipment. She said in the future she will advocate for a more comprehensive sustainable landscaping ordinance, including stronger rules regarding the regulation of gas leaf blowers and other gas-powered equipment, as well as rules regarding pesticides.

Resident Ximena Skovron said during public comment that she doesn’t feel the ordinance goes far enough. “I support a complete ban on gas-powered landscaping equipment with a reasonable phase-out period. I am one of many residents in the Riverside neighborhood who have expressed concern regarding the toxicity of fumes, and the excessive noise of gas-powered leaf blowers and other lawn equipment,” she said. “While some of us do our own landscaping with manual or battery-operated mowers and our own composting, we cannot avoid the fumes and noise coming from other properties that make it unpleasant and even hazardous to take a walk or sit on our front porch to linger on a corner chatting with a neighbor or attending to a child in a stroller.”

Skovron said the noise interferes with the enjoyment of residents’ yards. “My two-year-old was routinely startled out of sleep when the landscapers across the street arrived with their fleet unloaded and started them all up simultaneously to work on several properties at once. They still do that four years later, and we still, every time, whether outside our house or in it, feel an immediate physical and mental disturbance in whatever we are doing, Skovron said. “Our quality of life is further impacted by the fact that there is no escaping the noise and toxic fumes even in so-called open spaces. I feel that it is nonsensical that the quality of all of our lives and our health is being compromised for what is in effect an aesthetic concern.”

Some people noted that homeowners should realize that their costs for lawn care could go up because of the changes.

Resident John Heilner, who served on a subcommittee that looked at the issue of equity and landscape workers, said the subcommittee had to balance improving the environment with not placing too heavy a burden on landscaping company owners and workers. Most of the landscaping companies that operate in Princeton are small and are owned and operated by people of color, primarily Latinos, Heilner said. “Their workers are almost all Latino. And they will benefit from the environmental improvements, but they certainly will not benefit if their companies go out of business. So we’ve really sought to achieve a careful balance here,” he said.

“The financial burden on the on the small companies may not seem extreme, but when you operate at tiny margins, it is very significant. First, there is a capital cost of purchasing one or two battery-operated leaf blowers, and at least one spare battery pack for use in the seven and a half months per year that they will be required by many, many property owners,” Heilner said. “Second, for those property owners that do want at least minimal cleanup of grass clippings and leaves off their driveways, patios, and lots, even if not the lawn after mowing, there is also an increased labor cost because it takes longer to do this with battery versus gas-powered equipment.”

Eunice Wong, a co-organizer of Quiet Princeton, said she strongly supported the ordinance, but there is a very strong desire for a year-round ban on gas leaf blowers. “We need a paradigm shift in landscaping, and Princeton has started to try to educate its people and its landscapers about this paradigm shift,” she said. “Once we make that paradigm shift, gas leaf blowers will become obsolete. And a year-round ban will not be a problem for anyone.”

Tony Lunn, also a co-founder of Quiet Princeton, said the serious harm of gas leaf blowers is well known, and that workers should not have to use equipment that is bad for their health. He said California just banned the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment, and he hopes that means more and more manufacturers will stop producing the equipment. “We do not want one-to-one replacements of gas leaf blowers with electric leaf blowers. Sure, they’re a bit quieter, but they’re still noisy. We do need education, so people do understand that they don’t need to have every leaf removed from their lawn,” he said. “We need to educate the homeowners. It’s very important and a lot of effort needs to go into that,” Lunn said, adding that people need to realize the significant distress the noise from equipment causes to others around them.


  1. This was a good compromise and it will be interesting to see how well this works. I am an environmentalist living in the former Township with lots of trees. One absolutely needs a gas-powered leaf blower for most of one’s property as battery powered blowers aren’t powerful enough or last long enough. I look forward to when battery-only blowers work well enough, but that day isn’t here yet, nor will it be in the next few years.

  2. Landscapers will eventually have to buy battery powered blowers and lawnmowers at a cost similar to a Tesla. The costs will be passed along to homeowners, the taypaying citizens, remember us?, who employ local landscaping businesses. Has anyone on the council considered the high cost of all of the new equipment, what the landscapers will do with the current equipment and that a battery only lasts a couple hours. Does the gas powered machinery get dumped Into the landfill? I expect in order to pay for new equipment there may be fewer employees hired, which may hurt the brown communities and not exactly be in line with progressive social justice goals. The peace and quiet of being unemployed.

  3. Maybe instead of fewer employees, more people will be hired by lanscapers to help rake. Maybe a few high school kids will get jobs, and the professional landscapers will develop valuable team leadership skills and get raises, managing student-workers. Maybe that will raise the cost of these services such that only the more well to do can afford professional landscapers. Maybe we have marginally less beautiful lawns, and we rely more heavily on indigenous species that require fewer chemicals and fertilizers. And then throngs of high school kids start their own side hustles, cutting grass. And then maybe we have slighly quieter neighborhoods, which encourages more community.

  4. This is more for psychological reasons, and a prerequisite in getting everyone ready for climate change. There will still be ample leaf blowing and gas powered lawn mowers, for months at a time, so this is just a small first step.

    Similar to Cesar Chavez massive grape strike to build awareness for the exploitative working conditions of the people that work in our fields, this too will help bring awareness to both client and lawn care workers. Pesticides, and gas powered machines do much more harm than good.

    Just like the internet did not make our lives any qualitatively different (and most likely a whole lot worse), it will be the same thing with all these so called modern day convieniences, the gas and electric powered, primarily, male toys.

  5. This will create a huge financial burden on our Hispanic community. They are the majority of landscapers in this area. I hope they rise up and yell “Racism”, because that is what this ordinance is.

  6. Way too much regulation in progressive socialist Princeton. People working from home or not working at all is the genesis for this ridiculous ordinance. Smoke all the weed you want all day long in your Princeton homes, yet go outside to do some yard work during the wrong time of certain months with the wrong equipment as described by the progressives in Princeton, and face the wrath of the progressive left. Get ready for more Princeton ridiculousness, this is the precursor for getting rid of your gas lawnmowers too.

    1. Pat, you’re so right. Why should those horrible socialist progressives care so much about the health of our community and planet? Can’t they just get on the Trump / Desantis bandwagon, refuse to wear a mask because it infringes on your liberty, and why should anyone care about handing out a water bottle to someone who’s been waiting in line to vote for 3 hours in the hot sun? These progressives are just so selfish! ( All the above said tongue in cheek)
      Your labeling people, results in stereotyping them, is a deflection, and a way you don’t have to present an argument based on facts. Go back toFacebook.

  7. We offered to pay a high school $20 an hour and they could work as many hours as they wanted during the summer. They were too busy with video games, social networking and sports camps and having their parents hand out money. This generation is more interested in protesting than in working. Did the council ask local landscaping companies for input? This will hurt the brown owned businesses in Princeton. The well to do families are the ones paying the most taxes and actually working. Not relying on government handouts but working hard seven days a week and some 20 hours a day. Not surprisingly we do not have time to mow a lawn and happily would like to employ the local landscaper. This move is going to hurt the minority-owner businesses and their employees and families.

  8. Craig, will you pay for their cancer treatment, pulmonary disease and hearing loss, after years of breathing in carbon monoxide, oil and other pollutants to maintain your Versailles lawn?

  9. I agree completely Anonymous. However, the beautiful lawns are the ones we will have. The English aristocratic lawns are not beautiful.

  10. Mr. Smith, “…brown owned business,” only the wealthy work, and because of that the wealthy don’t have time to mow their lawns! What planet are you living in Mr. Smith? Must be the lies propagated on Fox News, Breitbart, and the Murdoch owned Wall St Journal planet. Nothing based in reality.

  11. I am a minority business owner from an immigrant family who would like to continue to employ and lift up other minority-owned businesses or really any business. Small businesses need policies that help to grow their business and not hinder them especially economically. Assumptions about my gender, race, wealth, political party or even what I read will not diminish my efforts and philanthropy to help others. My reality is that I believe that anyone can achieve their dream in America through education, opportunity and hard work.

  12. @Susan Basic economics teaches that with the costs of the equipment rising, and an increase in personnel costs due to using less powerful equipment, that either the landscape companies will need to pay their workers less or will need to increase their prices, resulting in less business. Either way, this proposal will hurt the workers in landscape businesses by reducing employment or salaries. Is this worth it in terms of reducing exposure to noise and fumes? It depends on who is answering the question.

  13. Anonymous,
    1. basic economics is completely skewed to our capitalist system that is failing. My proof, we are the only industrialized nation without parental leave, childcare only the ultra rich can afford, hedge funds taking over physician offices, and compromising your health, your healthcare worker and teacher making less than a football player, the ruination of small towns because of the monopoly by Amazon and big box stores, the greed of real estate owners who are not apart of the community, own property in our town, let their property fall apart, keep rents high and then get loans from the township to redo their property.
    What keeps all of this in play is campaign finance, Manchin and Sinema, the latest abusers, who represent to coal and business more than their constituency.
    2. If all of a sudden the affluent are concerned about the well being of workers, (!), there are many, many options available to help small businesses, like landscaping, rather than continuing to expose them to
    toxic fumes, defaming noise and low wages ( which they get anyway regardless of whether the owners upgrade or not).
    If people are so concerned about the well-being of workers start voting Democratic, vote to get rid of campaign finance, and spend less money on your travels abroad and wine cellar, and start a fund to help small businesses to help the planet.
    Princeton is already prone to flooding, wait another 20 years to see the damage climate change will wrought, with all those above road power lines, and trees. Helping move small landscapers to electronic is an investment in the future of Princeton.

  14. @Susan Why are you making personal attacks on those you disagree with? I don’t know anything about you, but you make incorrect assumptions about me and other posters in order to help your arguments. Economics is the study of how markets work, and given the current market structure for landscaping in Princeton, it predicts that there will be a detrimental effect on the landscaping business and their workers. Blaming the customers and attacking them for their wine cellars (if they exist) won’t change the economic effects of the recent law.

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