Seven County Councilmembers voted to delay a final vote on legislation that would ban the sale and use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the coming years.
The bill, which was introduced in June 2022 by then-Council President Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large), has seen considerable public debate and faced a lengthy worksession earlier this month, where the council decided to exempt agricultural producers countywide from the ban. Smaller municipalities, including Chevy Chase Village and Somerset, have banned the use of the gas-powered leaf blowers in recent years, as has Washington, D.C.
Broadly speaking, proponents of the ban say it would reduce noise pollution and align with the county’s climate change goals. Opponents say it would place too great a financial burden on landscapers throughout the county, many of which are small businesses.
But County Councilmembers—including Marilyn Balcombe (D-Dist. 2), who moved to table discussion on the bill Tuesday—said that they were concerned about how much money landscape companies and others would be able to receive through a rebate program.
Balcombe, along with Councilmembers Will Jawando (D-At-large), Sidney Katz (D-Dist. 3), Natali Fani-González (D-Dist. 6), Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large), Laurie-Anne Sayles (D-At-large), and Dawn Luedtke (D-Dist. 7) voted to table discussion on the bill. That essentially stopped a final vote on the legislation, which was scheduled for Tuesday.
Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large), Council Vice President Andrew Friedson (D-Dist. 1), Councilmember Kate Stewart (D-Dist. 4) and Councilmember Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5) opposed that motion. None spoke during the meeting about why they opposed the motion.
In an interview, Balcombe said that she had two major concerns about the bill—one is there needs to be clearer information about how large the rebate would be for landscapers and similar businesses. How large that rebate should be is up for debate, but Balcombe said it definitely needs to be much larger than $100, which was a figure that councilmembers debated earlier this month. County officials insisted that the rebate program would be established after a thorough review process, given the overall bill passes.
There also needs to be a clearer timeline for when the ban of sale would take place, followed by the ban of use, Balcombe said. Communication of that needs to improve—many residents countywide haven’t been following the issue closely and are unaware of the proposed ban, she added.
“The people most impacted by this law are the people who are least likely to know about it,” Balcombe said.
Earlier this month, a official from the county’s Department of Environmental Protection said it’s likely that he would need more staffers in order to enforce the proposed ban on gas-powered leaf blowers. Including Steve Martin, who heads the enforcement office within that department, there are seven people in that office.
“I think it would be difficult … but it depends on the priority that County Executive [Marc Elrich] puts on enforcement,” Balcombe said.
Balcombe said that she or any of the six other councilmembers who supported tabling the bill Tuesday can bring the bill back up for discussion or a vote at a later date. She added that she would not bring the bill for a vote until after the County Council votes on the operating and capital budgets, which is by late May.