South Lake Tahoe City Council is delaying implementation of a ban on single-use plastic carryout bags that was slated to take effect for retail businesses in the city in October.
Council members on Tuesday voted 3-2 to delay the ban for retail shops for up to one more year, until October 2015. Mayor Hal Cole, Tom Davis and JoAnn Conner supported the delay. Angela Swanson and Brooke Laine opposed it.
City Council passed South Lake Tahoe’s plastic bag ban last October, also with a 3-2 vote. The ban took effect for grocery stores in January and will remain in place for them.
“As a lawmaker, I have to see a major problem before I impose rules and regulations on my community. I just can’t see the numbers here no matter how you look at it,” Davis said about the number of plastic bags turning up as litter in South Lake Tahoe and the need for the ban.
By some accounts from beach cleanup efforts, more plastic bags have turned up as litter since the ban was passed, Davis said.
Several people spoke for and against the delay. Jesse Patterson, deputy director of League to Save Lake Tahoe, gave the City Council a list of signatures from 114 residents and letters from 12 businesses supporting the plastic bag ban and its application to retail shops as scheduled.
“It was a step in the right direction at grocery stores, but it’s still an issue,” Patterson said. “It’s not just about bags not ending up in the lake. The point is to not introduce them into the environment in the first place.”
Mayor Cole, who supported the ban’s adoption for grocery stores, supported the delay for retail businesses. “I don’t think our little retailers are ready for the transition yet,” he said.
Conner said many people reuse carryout plastic bags, which keeps them from buying other bags or trash can liners, and that the ban would be a hardship for struggling local businesses.
“There are counties that have banned bags in groceries and they have exempted smaller businesses. I think that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here. It’s being kept in place for grocery stores, the larger distributors, but we’re wanting to keep that hit from affecting our small businesses,” Conner said.
Laine tried to limit the delay to six months as a compromise measure to keep the ban on track and provide time to work through implementation issues that might surface for businesses with no good alternatives for plastic bags. That effort failed when put to a vote.
“We’re not discussing if we should be doing this. We’re talking about how and when,” Laine said about the ban.
Also in the minority, Swanson said moving forward with the ban as adopted is the right thing for South Lake Tahoe to do. She added that she has heard strong support for the ban and no legitimate reasons to put it on hold.
“What I want to look at next is plastic bottles. Those keep coming up over and over and over. Maybe that’s the next horizon,” Swanson said.
Several council members predicted the plastic bag ban could become an issue for candidates in an upcoming municipal election in which three of the five seats on City Council are on the ballot.
The ordinance amendment for the delay passed Tuesday, but must clear a second and final reading in August.