Barrington committee calls for ban on gas-powered equipment

Resilience and Energy Committee also wants DPW to transition to battery-powered equipment

By Josh Bickford
Posted 9/28/23

A local committee is calling for Barrington officials to ban the use of gas-powered lawn equipment in town by Jan. 1, 2026.  

The chairman of the Barrington Resilience and Energy Committee …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Barrington committee calls for ban on gas-powered equipment

Resilience and Energy Committee also wants DPW to transition to battery-powered equipment


A local committee is calling for Barrington officials to ban the use of gas-powered lawn equipment in town by Jan. 1, 2026. 

The chairman of the Barrington Resilience and Energy Committee presented a list of seven recommendations to the Town Council during the meeting on Sept. 11, each one aimed at mitigating “the harmful impacts of small off-road engine noise on residents, children and the elderly.”

Number four on the list called for the town and contractors working in Barrington to phase out the use of gas-powered equipment and comply with the 70 decibel noise limit by the start of 2026.

Magnus Thorsson opened his presentation by telling members of the Council that the town had already passed an ordinance in 2003 that limits excessive noise, but the law included exceptions for certain equipment that was determined to be necessary for yard maintenance. 

Thorsson said that hardship no longer exists — he said battery-powered alternatives are now available and very capable of completing the same tasks as gas-powered equipment. 

Thorsson said he spoke with officials from the Brown University property maintenance team; he said that group switched to battery-powered equipment and endorsed the change. 

Thorsson shared the list of seven recommendations with the Council, and also provided the hard-copy policy brief that the Resilience and Energy Committee had approved unanimously. 

At the top of the list is a call for the Town Council to direct the Town Manager to explore funding sources that could off-set tax dollars used to continue the battery-powered lawn equipment rebate program. (The Resilience and Energy Committee is calling for a gas-powered equipment buy-back program.)

Thorsson said his Committee also wants the town to develop a plan to transition the Barrington Department of Public Works grounds maintenance crew to battery-powered equipment over the next three years. Another recommendation was to purchase battery-powered stringer trimmers and leaf blowers to test with the DPW. During the meeting, Thorsson said he had contacted manufacturers who had agreed to give battery-powered equipment to the town at no cost. 

Another recommendation was to require residents and businesses to comply with the 70 decibel noise ordinance by Jan. 1, 2027, and to amend the ordinance to include: “The emission of sound relative to permitted construction, demolition, and normal maintenance activities, such as the use of power tools, lawn mowing, leaf blowing, tree cutting, and the like, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.”

There was also a call for a seasonal ban on “on any powered equipment above 70 decibels” leaf blowers and string trimmers from May 15 through Sept. 30, and from Dec. 15 through March 15 

There was some support from members of the Council. 

Barrington Town Council President Carl Kustell said he could ask the town manager to follow up with the solicitor’s office to further investigate the requests. Kate Berard said she supported extending the buy-back or rebate program and also having the DPW test out the battery-powered lawn equipment. 

Rob Humm thanked Magnus Thorsson for his presentation and the Committee’s work on the subject, but he had some concerns. Humm said he opposed an all-out ban on the gas-powered small engines. He said that was a state issue, not a town issue, and imposing a local prohibition could hurt Barrington businesses and residents. 

Humm said the town should not work in isolation on that issue. 

Thorsson said it was Barrington’s responsibility to push the boundaries — he said many residents’ cocktail hours were ruined when their neighbors started up their gas-powered mowers to cut the lawn. Thorsson also offered to provide information about the negative medical impacts gas-powered lawn equipment have on people. 

Thorsson and the Barrington Resilience and Energy Committee had some support from others who spoke at the meeting. Paige Barbour shared a story about how loud landscaping equipment had negatively impacted her and her mother. 

George Voutes offered a strong endorsement for Thorsson’s efforts. Voutes, who successfully pitched the $25,000 battery-powered equipment rebate program for Barrington, said people are continually being assaulted by the loud, noxious gas-powered equipment. He said the equipment is also “horrifically dangerous” to animals and other wildlife. 

Voutes pleaded with the Town Council to limit the hours of operation for gas-powered equipment and asked that there be a seasonal ban on the three worst offenders — leaf blowers, string trimmers and hedge trimmers. 

Voutes also said a number of other towns have already enacted such measures. Some, he said, have included the penalty of jail time for offenders. 

Kustell said he found everyone’s comments compelling, but he would draw the line at jail time. 

A few moments later, Berard made a motion to refer the recommendations to the town manager for further review. Braxton Cloutier seconded the motion, which passed 4-0. 

2023 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.