Falmouth to study restrictions on plastic shopping bags

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FALMOUTH — In response to requests from several residents, Falmouth is joining the ranks of towns considering limits on the use of plastic shopping bags.

The Town Council on Monday referred the issue to the Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee, with a request that REAC submit recommendations by Jan. 1, 2015.

“I think the idea should be to change behavior so people stop using plastic bags and start using reusable ones,” Councilor Russell Anderson said. “There are lots of ways to do that, and I think REAC is in a position to flesh that out for us.”

The Portland City Council in June approved a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper shopping bags that will go into effect in April 2015. Two weeks ago, the Freeport Town Council sent a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags to its Ordinance Committee.

Council Chairwoman Karen Farber requested Monday’s discussion. She said the council received an email from a resident suggesting it consider action in the wake of Portland’s new ordinance. Councilor Sean Mahoney said a half dozen constituents had expressed similar sentiments to him.

An ordinance on plastic shopping bags could “encourage the use of reusable shopping bags, reduce plastic bag trash found along our roadways and in our waterways, and reduce (the) ecological impact of manufacturing disposable shopping bags,” according to a post on the town’s website.

Councilor Dave Goldberg suggested bypassing REAC.

“I think if we want to study it and take a balanced view, perhaps the Ordinance Committee should take a look at this possible ordinance,” Goldberg said, but a majority of the council disagreed.

In other business, the council scheduled an Aug. 11 public hearing for an ordinance amendment that would reduce the influence of the Portland Yacht Club and Handy Boat marinas on the town’s Harbor/Waterfront Committee.

The existing ordinance dictates that the seven-member committee must include one representative from each business.

At an April meeting with Farber, Goldberg and town staff, the committee recommended an amendment that would relegate those business representatives to non-voting status, and replace them with two public members. It would also remove a stipulation that the Portland Yacht Club and Handy Boat representatives be Falmouth residents.

When Anderson asked why the existing ordinance calls for marina representation, Farber said, “There had been a time when that committee really needed to kind of pull together and get working again. I think there were some troubled times about the mooring field, and communications had been falling away. But since that time, things have been going well.”

Farber said she has spoken to officials at both the Portland Yacht Club and Handy Boat. “While neither was overly enthusiastic about the change, they were both accepting of it and comfortable with it as long as, as entities, they were treated the same,” she said.

Anderson wasn’t sold on the wisdom behind the amendment.

“They are two large organizations who dominate activity on the waterfront in Falmouth, and it seems logical to me that they would have standing representation on the committee,” he said. “So to change that seems a little funny to me.”

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.