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Quiet after 6: Ontario city considers curfew for gas-powered lawn tools

As the City of London moves forward with its Climate Emergency Action Plan, staff are looking at ways to reduce, restrict or phase out gas-powered lawn equipment – including a possible curfew.

At Wednesday’s civic works committee meeting, members voted to hold a public meeting on the idea in July.

The proposed changes to the sound bylaw would prohibit the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Currently, the sound bylaw prohibits the use of all lawnmowers, chain saws and leaf blowers from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., except for Sunday when the prohibition lasts until 9 a.m.

According to the staff report, gas-powered leaf blowers, for example, are significantly louder than electric ones, registering at as much as 105 decibels (as loud as a table saw) compared to 65 decibels.

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“In 2019, the Public Health Ontario (PHO) literature review concluded that the noise generated by gas-powered leaf blowers can be elevated enough to cause hearing damage for operators in certain use scenarios,” the report reads.

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Committee vice chair Councillor Sam Trosow raised several questions during the meeting, including asking about provisions about sound level, noting that if a gas powered leaf blower is operating beyond 100 decibels, that is “way beyond the area of human safety.”

Orest Katolyk, the city’s bylaw head, explained that it’s simply too complicated to police based on sound level rather than time of day because it would require going out to the location as it happens and taking a reading for 20 minutes.

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“The noise that’s emanating from lawn equipment is measured at the point of reception and not at the source of the equipment. So we would have to go to the residents that are complaining about the noise,” he explained.

“The time of day restriction, operationally, is very effective, very simple to implement. If you’re outside of that noise period, you’re in violation of the bylaw.”

The public participation meeting would be held in July at a Civic Works committee meeting but still requires approval from full council.

Outside of the sound bylaw changes, city staff are also looking into a public awareness campaign and said that Hamilton, Oakville and Ottawa are interested in cooperating on a campaign.

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Staff added that they have approached the Clean Air Partnership about applying to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Funds to cover half the cost of the project, which would “ultimately be made available for other communities in Canada.”

“This proposed project would include lawn and garden equipment used in three settings: household use; commercial lawncare and landscaping businesses, and municipal services (e.g., parks, roadsides and garden operations). Further details on the proposed scope of work are still under development,” the report reads.

A tentative timeline suggests an application for funding would be completed this summer and an awareness campaign would be launched in early 2025. The idea is still subject to approval from full council.

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