Commission delays final approval on leaf blower referendum

Issue still not settled as two commissioners asked for more information

March 13, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Winter Park commissioners on Wednesday punted the final approval for a voter referendum on gas leaf blowers until April when a new mayor will likely preside over the hearing.

The decision came after two votes ended in a 2-2 tie, meaning no action could be taken on the matter. Commissioner Todd Weaver was traveling and absent from the meeting.

Commissioners Sheila DeCiccio, who is running for mayor, and Marty Sullivan said they wanted to delay the vote on the referendum, which would ask voters next year if they want a ban on gas powered leaf blowers to stay in place.

Both DeCiccio and Sullivan raised questions about whether Gov. Ron DeSantis could veto language in the recently passed state budget that was inserted by Sen. Jason Brodeur to stop cities from banning gas leaf blowers.

The governor has about two weeks to veto line items once he receives the state budget, which hasn’t yet happened.

There’s no indication a veto is under consideration.

Winter Park commissioners adopted the ban in 2022 as a way to address resident complaints about the loud noise caused by the devices and cut down on harmful emissions and air pollutants. But the board opted to delay enacting the change to give residents and landscape companies time to transition to battery-powered blowers.

In recent months, as the June enactment date was approaching, landscape companies rallied for a repeal of the ordinance, citing burdensome costs of the battery models and other concerns like whether those models would be powerful enough to do the job.

Brodeur heard those complaints and decided to intervene at the state level.

But DeCiccio and Sullivan also questioned whether Brodeur’s preemption applies to Winter Park.

Brodeur told the Voice the language does apply to the city and he purposefully did that as an extra measure to keep the city from enacting the ban until the summer of 2025 at the earliest.

But the way the preemption is worded appears to only prohibit cities and counties from adopting new ordinances or amending current ordinances before the summer of 2025. Winter Park’s city attorney agreed with that interpretation.

If the city’s referendum does not go forward then the ordinance is set to take effect this summer, though the commission delayed issuing any fines for violations until January.

Mayor Phil Anderson and Commissioner Kris Cruzada said they wanted to finalize the referendum and let the voters have a say on the matter. But they lost in a 2-2 tie.

The matter is now set to be debated again at the April 10 City Commission meeting.

Anderson is expected to preside over his final meeting on March 27 and hand over the gavel to a new mayor during the April 10 meeting. Depending on the outcome of next week’s election, a new commissioner for Seat 2 could also be sworn in during that meeting.

But the Seat 2 race is a three-way contest and it’s possible it will head into a run-off that won’t be decided until April 16. If that happens, then there will only be four commissioners to decide the issue on April 10. 


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