Falmouth nears decision on 5-cent fee for single-use shopping bags

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FALMOUTH — Town councilors Monday scheduled consideration of an order that would regulate single-use shopping bags.

The council also unanimously granted access sought to a town-owned road by developers of the proposed Rivalries restaurant and sports bar off Clearwater Drive.

The shopping bag order, scheduled for Jan. 11, 2016, would regulate distribution of single-use plastic and paper shopping bags by the town’s six largest retailers: Shaw’s, Hannaford Bros., Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Staples and Goodwill. A 5-cent fee would be placed on the bags at these stores, which are each more than 10,000 square feet. The fee proceeds would will remain with the retailers.

The ordinance language also defines reusable bags as at least 4 millimeters thick. Portland, which enacted its own regulation last April, uses the standard 2.25-millimeter thickness, which includes a wider variety of bags.

Falmouth’s regulation would also exclude dine-in and take-out restaurants, dry cleaners, and horticultural nurseries and commercial greenhouses. Other exemptions include bags used exclusively to carry produce, meats and other food items and merchandise to the point of sale, or used to prevent those foods from directly touching other foods. Bags provided by pharmacists containing prescription drugs are also exempt.

If approved by the council, the regulation will take effect April 1, 2016.

The town’s Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee originally proposed an outright ban on plastic bags at the large retailers one year after a fee was instituted. But the ordinance committee, which drafted the language, ultimately decided not to go that route. Councilors have said if the fee system proves ineffective, they may take another look at a ban.

Resident Susan Hall spoke in favor of the regulation Monday, saying the convenience of the bags is not worth the harm they do to oceans and waterways after improper disposal.

Resident Tazewell Mumford said while he was “impressed by the idea” of regulating single-use bags, he urged the council not to vote for this iteration. He said the plan is  “financially wrong,” and he would rather see the fee go to the town for recycling purposes, rather than back to the businesses.

“Doing what you’re doing is wrong,” Mumford said.

Portland and South Portland both have their own ordinances. Brunswick is exploring regulation, and Freeport is planning an advisory town referendum on a plastic bag fee.


The proposed Rivalries restaurant, to be built behind Wal-Mart off Farm Gate Road and Clearwater Drive, created a nearly year-long debate, and was opposed by residents of the abutting mixed-use neighborhood, Tidewater Farm.

But the proposal finally gained Planning Board approval on Nov. 3. Council approval to use Hat Trick Drive, which is not a traditional public way, was the last major hurdle the applicants faced.

Councilors unanimously approved three items regarding this issue Monday night: They granted an easement for the developers of the restaurant to access Hat Trick Drive, approved an easement allowing the public to use a sidewalk to be built on Farm Gate Road by the developers, and approved an agreement for the developers to reimburse the town just under $15,000 for construction work the town has completed on Hat Trick Drive.

While most public discussions regarding Rivalries have filled Council Chambers, Monday’s vote lacked the usual back and forth between the applicants and their opponents. While public comment was allowed, no one spoke.

The single-story building will be 4,600 square feet and seat 125 patrons inside. An additional 32 seats will be available outside on a seasonal basis.

Rivalries, which has another location at 10 Cotton St. in Portland, still needs a building permit. The town’s code enforcement office had not received an application for the permit as of Tuesday afternoon.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.