The debate over a New Jersey town’s ordinance on leaf blowers has resulted in confusion, frustration and summonses.
One of the most vocal adversaries to Montclair’s limitations is Rich Galioto, a local landscaper, who had warned the Montclair Township Council of a citizen purposefully lodging complaints against landscapers.
“What he does is, he follows landscapers,” Galioto told the council. “The minute they pick up a blower, he’ll go to Municipal Court and file a complaint.”
The current ordinance limits the usage of blowers from March 1 through June 30 and Oct. 1 through Dec. 15. It also limits the hours of use to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Blowing is only allowed on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The violation of any of these would result in a summons and monetary fine.
Galioto urged the council to review the ordinance after pointing out that the ban did not extend to landscapers hired by the municipality. It agreed to do so and said that the government was only to issue warnings, not summonses, while it looked over the ordinance.
However, the citizen filing complaints – a person Galioto refers to as “Batman” – filed complaints against at least six different landscapers during the warning period and all received summonses, according to NorthJersey.com.
Because the council had not repealed or rewritten the ordinance it was reviewing, the court followed the ordinance as it currently reads.
“When a citizen lodges a complaint, the court has to follow through on that complaint,” said municipal Communications Director Katya Wowk. “[The court] has to follow what is written in the code. That is something we have no control over, as a township government.”
The whole leaf-blower ban has been complicated further with Galioto’s claim that on July 31, Township Manager Tim Stafford told him it was OK for landscapers to use their leaf blowers during the warning period.
Russ Bomberg, a landscaper who received two summonses during the warning period, is facing a $100 fine per summons. He said Galioto told him of his meeting with Stafford and that Stafford said, “Until they look at the issue further, because the town was caught using blowers, we’ll see how many complaints we get, and that it’s OK to use blowers.”
Bomberg’s original hearing was set for early September, but the complainant was not present. His hearing is now set for Nov. 10.