SNOWMASS VILLAGE - On Nov. 6, the town of Snowmass Village will ask residents for advice: Should they support some kind of policy on the distribution and use of plastic and paper bags or not?
Because 2A is an advisory question, voter approval doesn't mean a specific ordinance would be implemented at this time, but it would give town staff a nod to begin working on a policy to limit bags on some level.
"It's not ... if you say 'yes' you're locked into a certain thing," said Sally Sparhawk, resident and chairwoman of the town's Environmental Advisory Board. "It's: 'Yes, we at Snowmass Village should explore this.'"
Aspen and Carbondale this year enacted ordinances requiring their grocery stores to stop distributing plastic bags and charge their customers 20 cents for paper.
"There are many options ... that range from just voluntarily encouraging people to bring bags to the store to what Aspen does to even more," she said. "We could do something very true to Snowmass and our guests."
Mayor Bill Boineau asked the Town Council at a meeting this summer if it wanted to create an ordinance similar to those in Aspen and Carbondale to put before voters this fall. The council determined there wasn't enough time to gather information and draft such a thing by the deadline for election items. The officials then voted to ask an advisory question in this election to gauge whether a policy on bags was something town residents were interested in or not.
Snowmass Village's guests have been a primary concern for some about bag legislation. John Buxman, owner of Village Market, the only traditional grocery store in the village, expressed a popular complaint.
"It gets more complicated in our particular case because of all the tourists that we have who know nothing about these local issues," Buxman said.
Sparhawk said that in Breckenridge, condominiums put out cards in guest rooms that explain the bag policy there.
"There are ways ... to make sure guests have access to bags," she said.
The bag ordinances in Aspen and Carbondale only apply to the City Market stores in both cities and the Clark's Market location in Aspen. Buxman said that while such policies typically apply only to conventional grocery stores, he hopes that Snowmass Village includes other businesses, as well, adding that that might be more effective at reducing waste, too.
"As a citizen, it would be my hope that everyone will be included," Buxman said.
Village Market has its administrative offices in Glenwood Springs. Buxman is not a Snowmass Village resident and can't vote on this question.
Buxman said his business understands the spirit of what proponents of a bag policy are trying to do.
"I think we understand that," he said. "We're not unlike our neighbors; we're concerned about those kinds of things, too."
Should the town get the nod, Sparhawk and the Environmental Advisory Board would work heavily on facilitating discussion around what type of bag legislation is appropriate for Snowmass Village. She can't speak on behalf of the board on this ballot item, but she said that in her personal experience, places that have implemented such a policy have seen positive response to it.
Mona Newton, executive director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, said feedback in Aspen has been mainly positive.
"They're achieving their goal: More people are reusing their bags," she said.
People who aren't aware of the rule aren't very happy, she said, but increased education can help.
"There's a marketing opportunity here as well," she said. One idea Newton pointed out was that stores and hotels can sell bags with their logos on them.
Another reason some people don't like reusable bags is that they think bacteria can build up in them. According to Newton, bacteria requires a hot, moist environment, so it can't typically sustain itself in an empty bag.
People used to take issue with not being allowed to smoke in certain places, and now smoking prohibitions have become commonplace, Sparhawk said.
"I think this will become common practice over time," Sparhawk said.
The advisory question on single-use bags is Ballot Question 2A. Election Day is Nov. 6.