Steamboat City Council puts bag fee plan on hold | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council puts bag fee plan on hold

Members to re-evaluate Yampa Valley Recycles proposal next month

Jack Weinstein

— Steamboat Springs City Council members weren't ready to green light a proposal for a fee on disposable plastic bags Tuesday, but they weren't interested in shelving it, either.

Instead, council members, by a 5-2 vote, approved a motion to review the bag fee ordinances in other Colorado communities and provide feedback to city staff about whether to proceed. That could take place at the council's Oct. 18 meeting.

During her presentation titled "Let's Talk Plastic," Yampa Valley Recycles board member Catherine Carson said the purpose of a bag fee program is to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags. She said they're expensive to produce and harm the environment.

Her presentation suggested the city create a trial program that would impose a 20-cent "green fee" on paper and plastic bags at City Market, Safeway and Walmart.

"A green fee is not a tax," Carson said. "A green fee is a market-based solution to reduce plastic bags in our environment. It's a user fee."

She compared it to the fee people pay to park in the lot at Fish Creek Falls.

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Carson said 1 to 2 cents of the fee could be returned to the stores while the rest could pay for reusable bags for people who receive assistance from social service organizations, education efforts or to fund the city's environmental coalition. The city dedicated $37,500 from its general fund this year and in 2010 to the coalition, which considers requests for funding from seven local organizations.

City Council President Cari Hermacinski and council member Bart Kounovsky opposed the motion.

"I think we can let some of the other communities do more of the heavy lifting for us before we jump in and try to bring something in an ordinance," Kounovsky said.

Aspen and Basalt approved first readings of bag fee ordinances last month, and Carbondale is scheduled to consider the measure Tuesday. Carson said Telluride imposed a plastic bag ban in 2010 and a 10-cent charge on paper bags.

While several City Council members supported the motion, the rest of the council cited their desire for more information.

Council member Kenny Reisman said he liked the idea but thought things were moving too quickly to keep pace with the other communities, and he wanted to review the 20-cent charge. Council member Jon Quinn said using the funds generated by the bag fee to support the environmental coalition could take the burden off the general fund.

Council member Scott Myller said that other incentives for using reusable bags haven't worked and that he's ready to support a measure like bag fees.

"Even for my family, it will be a bigger reminder to bring" reusable bags, he said.

The City Council didn't take public comment, but a majority of people at the meeting raised their hands when asked by Hermacinski if they supported a bag fee program.

If there is consensus for the first reading of a bag fee ordinance, City Attorney Tony Lettunich said it likely wouldn't take place until Nov. 8.

In other action, the City Council:

• Approved, by a 6-0 vote, a final development plan with a 10-year vesting period for the 121,000-square-foot Casey's Pond senior citizen community. Quinn recused himself. The project's developer, Pearl Senior Living, had requested an unlimited amount of time to expand the facility. The Planning Commission denied the request, a decision upheld by the City Council.

"I support this motion, but in no way is this a knock on the project at all," Reisman said. "I think it will be a phenomenal asset to the community. I hope to live there someday but not for a while."

After the meeting, Pearl Senior Living principal Charles Gee said the decision wouldn't impact the development timeline and that groundbreaking still is scheduled for next year.

• Approved, by a 5-2 vote, the second reading of an ordinance to allow two to three goats (excluding nursing kids) in fenced enclosures of 200 square feet per animal on lots zoned for single-family homes or duplexes. Council members Meg Bentley and Walter Magill opposed the motion.

• Approved, by a unanimous vote, dedicating $18,000 from the city's Community Housing Fund to cover the cost of tap fees for Routt County Habitat for Humanity's duplex construction project in west Steamboat that will provide low-cost housing for two local families.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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