Winter Park follows Fraser, moves forward with single-use bag fee
In an effort to set a standard across the Fraser Valley, the Winter Park Town Council discussed implementing a single-use bag fee for grocery stores and retailers at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
Fraser passed a 20 cent single-use bag fee last year, which will go into effect April 1, that Winter Park used to craft the town’s own ordinance. Like Fraser, the fee in Winter Park would be 20 cents per single-use bag at any grocer or retailer.
“The adoption of the ordinance, if you move forward with it, would align with the healthy and thriving environment vision that’s outlined in the town’s Imagine Winter Park plan,” Winter Park Town Manager Keith Reisberg told the council.
The council approved the first reading of the ordinance in a 5-1 vote, with council member Chuck Banks voting in dissent.
Banks said he felt that the ordinance didn’t get at the heart of the problem because it didn’t do enough to eliminate plastic bags altogether. There was also concern about this exclusively negatively impacting visitors who wouldn’t necessarily know about the fee.
“In a community where you have a stable year-round population then imposing the bag fee is going to change people’s behavior and they will start bringing in their reusable bags, but that’s not what happens in Winter Park,” Banks said. “We are having destination skiers who are driving and flying in and they don’t have their bags, so all we’re doing is penalizing them and we’re not solving the problem.”
However, fellow council members felt the fee was a good first step in addressing the problem and that it was important to have consistency in the Valley.
“I think we’re kind of behind on the curve here too because there’s a lot of ordinances in other municipalities that have taken it two or three steps further, but you’ve got to do it incrementally,” said council member Nick Kutrumbos.
The ordinance uses much of the same language as Fraser’s, including how the revenues would be used. Winter Park will collect 60 percent of the fee to use for implementing the fee and other sustainability initiatives, while businesses will keep 40 percent of the revenue for the cost of implementing the fee.
It also makes exceptions for certain types of reusable bags, such as produce bags and pharmacy bags, as well as for certain vendors, including temporary vendors and businesses where retail sales are secondary to the primary business, such as salons.
One distinction in the proposed Winter Park ordinance is the exemption for customers using food assistance programs, who will not be charged the fee.
“I like the idea that we’re creating a level playing field here in the Valley with Fraser by doing something similar to what their doing,” said council member Art Ferrari. “I think putting us on a level playing field so that the guest who come to the Valley aren’t having to know which side of the boundary they’re on.”
A representative for the Colorado Restaurant Association David Sedbrook requested the ordinance specifically make an exception for restaurants like the Fraser ordinance because of concerns regarding foodborne illnesses.
Council agreed that was an important distinction and approved the change, along with another change that would require an annual review of the fee to see how it’s working.
The ordinance is set to take effect July 1, so businesses have time to adjust and the town can educate residents and visitors on the change.
The ordinance requires businesses to put up signage notifying customers of the charge. The town also plans to educate residents and visitors through signage and promotional efforts, such as working with the Winter Park-Fraser Chamber of Commerce to potentially get branded reusable bags into rental properties.
“I think you’re going to find that there’s a general acceptance because we are behind the curve, there are many, many communities doing this, so I think people are used to understanding that, maybe even in their home communities,” said Mayor Jimmy Lahrman. “I think it’s a matter of how do we make it easy for people. (…) I think once we’ve made it easy, we’re going to find that we get compliance.”
The second reading and public hearing for the ordinance will take place at the Feb. 19 town council meeting.
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