Montclair gasoline leaf blower law goes to court

A landscaping company challenges the new leaf blower ordinance.
Chris Bair via Unsplash

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A landscaping company is challenging Montclair’s new gasoline leaf blower order in court.

The company that sued the township when Montclair began limiting gasoline leaf blowers in 1995 will return to court on June 25 to challenge a recent change in the law, which reduces the number of days gasoline blowers are on. allowed every year from 168 to 93, claiming that this goes against an agreement reached in 2000.

Montclair first limited the times of year that could be used with gasoline leaf blowers in 1995, but Dente Landscaping and 50 other “John Does” filed a lawsuit shortly thereafter, challenging the order. In 2000, landscapers and the township entered into a regulation that still limited the times of the year that can be used with gasoline-powered fans, but allowed a wider date range than the township’s first set – March 1 through June 10 and from October 1 to December 15. – and the landscapers agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.

In February, city council voted 5-2 to restrict these dates from March 15 to May 15 and October 15 to December 15. Start times are now also one hour later – 9 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends.

In February, Michael D. Byrne of Pilgrim Pruning told council the bylaw prohibited the city from further restrictions on leaf blowers. But township lawyer Ira Karasick dismissed the claim, saying the courts couldn’t stop legislative bodies from making new laws.

On March 15, Dente’s attorney, David J. Mairo, sent Karasick a letter stating that “the parties have agreed not to change the hours of operation. … In light of the stipulation of the bylaw, Dente Landscaping and the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association demand that the township immediately repeal the ordinance… and reject any summons issued for alleged violations of it.

Mairo said if the township fails to repeal the order, Dente will file a petition in court.

On June 9, Vito Dente and Dente Landscaping filed a civil action in Essex County Superior Court, known as the Plaintiff’s Rights Assistance Application, asking the court to enforce the terms of the settlement.

“The stricter restrictions in the ordinance on the use of internal combustion leaf blowers reduce by about a month and a half the periods of permissive use that the defendant agreed to in the settlement agreement,” the motion reads. .

Karasick refutes that in a brief, telling the court that the settlement was “silent on the duration of the amended regulations or on the township’s right to change these dates and times in the future.”

And he says in the brief that the court should dismiss the petition because “the previous regulation cannot limit the exercise of policing power by Montclair’s current governing body.”

Karasick also states that city council should not be “forever prevented” from considering the impact of gas fans on public health and safety which is different from that of 2000.

The motion will be heard on June 25, when Dente asks a superior court judge to bar Montclair from enforcing the updated order. Dente is also asking the judge to demand that the municipality reject any summons currently pending for alleged violations.

The township, as of June 10, had issued nine summons to eight different landscaping companies for violating the partial ban on gasoline leaf blowers. These summons were to lead to hearing dates. In addition, the township has issued five warnings to landscapers for allegedly using gas blowers since the ban took effect.

The complaint also asks for legal fees.

Only two cities currently have limitations on gas fans – Montclair and Maplewood. In April, Summit created a pilot program to test the ban on gas blowers from June 1 to August 31 of this year.

Maplewood passed its law in 2017, restricting gas blowers by landscapers from Oct. 1 to May 14. From Monday to Friday, they are authorized from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Residents are not prohibited from using them.

Shortly after Maplewood passed its ban, the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association and nine landscaping companies filed a lawsuit against the township, accusing the ban of discriminating against businesses because it does not apply to private residents and crews. City DPW. Montclair’s ordinance, however, also applies to private residents, although the DPW is not limited. Maplewood’s lawsuit is still in federal courts.

Montclair’s law creates a minimum fine of $ 100, a maximum of $ 2,000 and a jail term of 90 days for offenders – the maximum allowed by municipal ordinances.

Peter Holm of Quiet Montclair, a group that aims to reduce the use of gas fans in favor of quieter, healthier and greener alternatives, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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