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Darien plastic bag ordinance amended, debate path narrowing

Updated 12:42 pm, Thursday, June 28, 2012

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  • Town Government, Structure & Administration committee members Lloyd Plehaty, John Boulton, Vice Chairman Spencer Mcllmurray and Chairman Sarah Seelye revise the plastic bag ban ordinance at their meeting Monday, June 25, 2012. Darien, Conn. Photo: Thomas Michael
    Town Government, Structure & Administration committee members Lloyd Plehaty, John Boulton, Vice Chairman Spencer Mcllmurray and Chairman Sarah Seelye revise the plastic bag ban ordinance at their meeting Monday, June 25, 2012. Darien, Conn. Photo: Thomas Michael

 

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The Town Government, Structure and Administration Committee of the Representative Town Meeting on Monday moved to replace "Darien Health Department" with "Darien Environmental Protection Commission" as the enforcing group on the draft of the plastic bag ban ordinance.

This motion came upon request from First Selectman Jayme Stevenson. Earlier this month, after the Advisory Board of Health said it doesn't take a position on the ban, Stevenson said the ordinance is clearly written out of environmental concern.

TGS&A committee members showed no issue with this recommendation and approved the amendment and several others to the ordinance draft. Due to time constraints, however, members were unable to vote to approve the document in its entirety at its meeting Monday night.

Chairwoman Sarah Seelye suggested the committee take two votes in order to fulfill its duty of moving the document forward without discrepancies, while also acknowledging the members' personal positions on the issue.

"What the goal of TGS&A is is to be objective, and we're looking at this as presenting a clean ordinance to the RTM without bias," Seelye said. "So whether you are for this ordinance or whether you are against this ordinance, your job here is to present a clean ordinance to the RTM."

She acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue regarding each member, which will be reflected in the second vote.

"I know there are both sides in this room tonight," she said. "There are people who are proponents of this ban and there are people who are opposed to this ban."

Their votes are not urgent, as the full RTM does not meet again until September.

A question was raised at the meeting regarding what would happen if the EPC refused the role.

Town attorney Wayne Fox suggested, "I suppose, hypothetically, if it went to (the EPC) and that commission made an argument to the RTM as to why it did not feel it could handle it -- it did not have the staff, it did not have the time, it's taking away from other tasks that they're charged with, something to that nature -- I suppose down the road that could be a reason for the RTM to reject it."

When recommending the EPC, Stevenson said Environmental Protection Officer Richard Jacobson would likely be the ban's enforcing officer.

Yet Darien already has a willing candidate.

"If it's legal, I'd be happy to be the point person," Nina Miller said at the Public Health and Safety Committee meeting June 21.

Miller is a member of the PH&S committee and Choose to Reuse in Darien, an advocacy group for reusable bags that also supports the ordinance.

"Most of the stores in Darien ... don't use plastic bags," Miller said. "It's the retail outlets that do, and that is Stop & Shop and CVS and Walgreens, and I hate to knock these guys. We always mention them and I don't mean anything against them, but they know they need to comply only if there's an ordinance."

Miller expressed her familiarity with other towns that enforce a plastic bag ban. She said she even did a little passive enforcement in Westport, a town that bans plastic bags.

"I went to a Westport restaurant that's right on the Fairfield border," she said. "And I even asked the waiter, `Are you in Westport?' He goes, `Yes,' as he gave me my leftovers in a plastic bag. And I said, `May I talk to your manager?' And he was very friendly, it was a new restaurant. And so that's how that was handled."

tmichael@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; www.twitter.com/tmichael89