Despite a favorable recommendation from a city committee, Rehoboth Beach commissioners appear to have little interest in pursuing a ban on gas-powered lawn equipment within city limits.
The city’s environment committee recommended the phased-in ban in December. As suggested, portions of the ban would begin with city contractors and employees in January 2024, commercial operators in January 2025 and a city-wide ban beginning in January 2026. Specifically, for city contractors and employees, the ban would begin with handheld equipment Jan. 1, 2024; then a ban on gas-powered lawn mowers would take effect Jan. 1, 2026. There would be a similar two-year transition period for commercial operators and residential equipment. By January 2028, all handheld gas-powered equipment and lawn mowers would be banned for everyone.
During a workshop July 10, City Manager Laurence Christian said between the city’s public works and parks departments, it would cost at least $250,000 to replace all gas-powered equipment. That doesn’t include requiring the city’s landscaping contractor to follow suit or any manpower-related changes that might need to occur, he said, adding that supply could also be a challenge.
He said it’s a wonderful thought, but the technology for implementation hasn’t caught up with supply demands.
Commissioner Toni Sharp said her biggest issue is the cost for the city to make the change, but she said she also has problems singling out one business type for changes. She said the city hasn’t done anything about single-use plastics or straws because that was said to be too onerous on the businesses, and those are used 365 days a year.
Sharp said she would have preferred to see a larger scope of options presented from the committee instead of a single item.
Looking at the timeframe for implementation, Sharp said there’s no way it could begin by the end of this year.
Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski is the chair of the committee. He said the city’s comprehensive development plan discusses at length the effects climate change will have on the city. He said the committee recommended the city move forward with a climate action plan 18 months ago, but that issue has never come before commissioners for a discussion.
Commissioner Tim Bennett asked what would happen if an emergency cut power and the battery-powered equipment used by the city couldn’t be charged.
Chrzanowski said the city has the ability to change rules in the case of an emergency.
Commissioner Jay Lagree spoke in favor of the change. Specifically, he said he would like to see the city eliminate the all-day use of generators on construction sites by contractors so they can save a few bucks. Contractors could have temporary power turned on, but instead they run generators for eight hours a day for months during construction to save money, said Lagree.
Commissioner Francis “Bunky” Markert recognizes that gas-powered lawn care equipment pollutes at a greater rate than many other gas-powered items, but he said the real solution is for homeowners to have a smaller lawn and more plantings that require less use of gas-powered equipment.
As he did during committee meetings, resident Dave Diefenderfer spoke out against the idea of the city telling him he can’t use his $750 gas-powered lawnmower. He said the lawn care tools that are offensive to him are the blowers used by contractors.
One resident spoke in favor of a daytime ban because she works from home and the equipment is loud, causing her to have to move around her house to find a quiet space. There are more people working from home than the commissioners think, she said.
Ultimately, a majority of commissioners decided they didn’t want the city to pursue the issue any further.