Aspen holds hearing on proposed bag fee
September 11, 2011
ASPEN – A slate of items on Monday’s Aspen City Council agenda could generate public interest.
A full public hearing is scheduled for an ordinance to create a 20-cent fee on each paper and plastic bag provided during checkout at City Market and Clark’s Grocery. No one spoke up to criticize the fee when it was introduced at an Aug. 23 meeting, although council members did discuss the waste-reduction initiative among themselves, city Environmental Health Department staff and a few interested parties. The city usually conducts public comment during second (and subsequent) readings of an ordinance.
Last month, council members expressed a desire for more details, including how department staff arrived at 20 cents instead of a higher or lower figure. They also cautioned against any measure that would overburden the two grocery stores inside city limits that would collect the fees, and debated whether the stores should keep a greater percentage of the fee than the 5 percent that city staff proposed.
The council cautioned against a fee structure that would create an unintended windfall for the city. They also pointed out that grocery operators are likely to incur a lot of costs in training employees about the new ordinance, and face a loss of productivity as customers go over their options while standing in checkout lines.
The change also would require reprogramming electronic registers, another additional cost to grocers.
The ordinance would implement the fee on Nov. 15, after a public outreach campaign to educate consumers about the problems associated with plastic bags. Council members discussed the possibility of waiting until early next year, or after the winter, to start the program.
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The city’s portion of revenue from the fee would go toward educating residents, businesses and visitors about the importance of reducing the usage of fossil-fuel energy to make disposable bags and the effect of the improperly disposed bags on waterways and the environment. Revenues also would fund programs and infrastructure that allow the Aspen community to continue to reduce waste and recycle.
In other business, an introductory reading of ordinances that would allow a revamped Lift One Lodge development and to increase city electric fees in the commercial core and West End neighborhoods is scheduled. The council may or may not elect to discuss those projects.
A public hearing also is scheduled on the Aspen Walk mixed-use residential development. The decision involves a request to merge two lots in the Sunny Park subdivision to create a building with subgrade parking, 17 affordable-housing units and 14 free-market units.