Cape Elizabeth expands proposed fee for single-use bags

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A proposed ordinance that would have required only food stores to charge a 5-cent fee for single-use plastic shopping bags was revised Tuesday to expand the charge to all retailers. 

The Town Council on Sept. 19 also ensured that farm stands are included in the definition of food establishments. 

The council sent the draft bag ordinance back to the Ordinance Committee at its Sept. 11 meeting after Councilor Penelope Jordan, of Jordan’s Farm, questioned why all retail establishments shouldn’t be required to charge for bags, rather than only those selling food.

Originally, Recycling Committee member Kara Law said all retail establishments weren’t included because the committee pulled much of the wording for the ordinance from existing ordinances in Portland and South Portland. 

“I understand that South Portland doesn’t want to deal with the Maine Mall,” Jordan said.

Noting that a change in the draft ordinance would only impact an additional handful of retailers, the Ordinance Committee agreed to revise the draft.

Councilor and Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Patty Grennon pointed out that Recycling Committee member Matt Faulkner had visited nearly every “food establishment” in town and found that most were in favor of the charge. 

She suggested a list be made of all retail establishments in town and fair notice of the ordinance be given to them. 

“We’re going to go out and speak with folks prior to any decision,” Garvin said. “The only gray area that (the town) may need to look at (with this revision) is regarding hair and nail salons that also sell products.”

Taking local farmers’ concerns into consideration, the committee backtracked on Tuesday, adding an omitted clause back into the town’s definition of a “food establishment.” 

According to Council Chairman and Ordinance Committee member Jamie Garvin, the committee eliminated a clause exempting establishments selling live shellfish, raw vegetables and fruit from the town’s definition of a “food establishment.” By doing so – unbeknownst to the committee – the classification of a “farm stand” would be changed.

“We made a small tweak … not realiz(ing) the ripple effect it might have elsewhere (in the ordinance),” Garvin said Wednesday. 

Without this clause, local farmers worried that farm stands would be required to go through an extensive permitting process to sell their products that typically would only have to be done by the establishments that prepare their food.

“(At local farm stands) they’re only harvesting and picking fruits and vegetables, and sometimes raw shellfish,” Garvin said. “No food preparation is going on there.” 

Jay Cox, of Old Farm Store and Christmas Place, said, “a change to the definition of food establishments (would impact) farm stands in a way that probably wasn’t intended.”

“We made some well-meaning … changes and had some unintended consequences,” Grennon said. “This is what public process is for.”

“It was a relatively simple thing for us to modify,” Garvin added. “We were lucky enough to have good, helpful feedback from the farming community.” 

Garvin said Wednesday that his expectation is for the drafted ordinances to come back to the council at its Oct. 11 meeting, where it is expected the council will set a November public hearing. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.