Basalt bag fee may be headed toward ballot
BASALT – A petition aimed at overturning Basalt’s plan to charge a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic grocery bags has enough signatures to force the The Council to rescind the fee or put it to an election, Town Clerk Pam Schilling said Friday.
Basalt resident Roy Chorbajian started collecting signatures in October and submitted the petition to Town Hall this week. Schilling said signatures of 231 registered town voters were required. Chorbajian submitted 387 signatures, of which 264 were valid.
“A lot of them weren’t from Basalt,” Schilling said of the invalid signatures. Other people who signed weren’t registered to vote or they weren’t registered at the address they submitted. Nevertheless, Chorbajian met the requirement by a margin of 33 valid signatures. Schilling will present the petition formally to the Town Council at its next meeting, Tuesday night. The council has the option of rescinding the bag-fee ordinance it approved last fall, or it can send the question to town voters.
If the council chooses to place the matter on the ballot, there is enough time – with speedy action – to get the question in the next scheduled election in April, Schilling said.
The council majority said at a Dec. 13 meeting that they support referring the measure to the ballot and letting voters decide the bag fee’s fate.
Chorbajian said Friday that it was satisfying that his effort paid off.
“I’m just happy. It took a lot of work,” he said.
Chorbajian said he was thankful for the help of a handful of people who collected signatures with him and for the hundreds of people who encouraged him.
“I talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in the parking lot (of City Market). I think this thing would be defeated,” Chorbajian said in reference to the bag fee.
The overwhelming comment from foes is that there are more important issues for local governments to focus on than regulation of grocery bags.
“They don’t want government in their hair,” Chorbajian said. “They don’t want government in their lives.”
Chorbajian said he hopes the issue turns out to be a lesson for elected officials in Basalt.
“Communities of the valley shouldn’t follow the do-gooders of Aspen who run under the green banner on everything,” Chorbajian said.
Basalt was actually the leader on the issue: The council voted 6-1 in September to charge 20 cents on paper and plastic grocery bags. Since then, elected officials in Aspen and Carbondale voted to ban plastic grocery bags and charge a fee for paper bags. Their ordinances are scheduled to take effect later this year, although a petition in Carbondale could force a town vote on the issue.
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