Gardening equipment fuelled by gasoline, including leaf blowers, is becoming a thing of the past in Oak Bay.

By a unanimous vote, district council on Tuesday moved to permanently nix gas-powered equipment for local residential use by 2026.

The motion, brought forward by Coun. Tara Ney, comes into effect in 2023, giving residents three years to swap out their gas machines and opt for electric.

“People report that they’re noisy, they’re stinky, they’re harmful to users and to the environment, and in many cases, many people would say that they’re actually unnecessary,” Ney said at the council meeting.

“With these concerns, and also that more and more people are working out of home, the noise becomes especially aggravating for the livability for people in the municipality.”

Among the speakers at the meeting was Oak Bay’s Francis Landy, who in January launched a Change.org petition, Phaseout gas-powered leaf blowers in Oak Bay, which surpassed 650 signatures.

Landy said he was “blown away” by the support, noting his goal was to help make Oak Bay “a cleaner, more environmentally friendly place.”

While council had previously voted to phase out the district’s fleet of gas-powered gardening equipment by 2025, he wanted officials to ban the machines for residential use as well.

So far, nine of the district’s 40 tools have been replaced with electric models, according to parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay. 

Echoing Ney, Landy found gas-powered equipment “extremely noisy” and “destructive of the environment.” He highlighted a 2011 Edmunds survey that found some gas-powered blowers spew out more pollution than a pickup truck.

Landy said numerous landscaping companies around town were switching to electric equipment and pointed to other cities, including Vancouver, voting to phase out gas-powered blowers.

Still, others are opposed.

As living costs soar, letters to council said switching to electric-powered equipment would be an added expense, as another local suggested electric-powered equipment is nearly as noisy as gas-powered.

“My effort has been to do this constructively, so there is minimal hardship on any resident,” added Coun. Ney. “One of them is the phase-out over three years, which allows residents an opportunity to plan for the transition to electronic garden equipment.

“…And over that period of time, one would expect not only that the equipment would become less noisy and more powerful and efficient for users, but the cost would be reduced.”

District staff are set to report back to council after combing through the details, including financial implications imposed on residents.

Currently, Oak Bay’s Anti-Noise Bylaw prohibits using leaf blowers on weekends or holidays outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, and Monday through Friday outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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