Gold Beach City Councilors seemed willing to ban single-use plastic retail bags but took issue with parts of a citizen’s proposal to do so at their meeting March 11.
Councilors balked at the idea of collecting money charged for the new, eco-friendly bags — biodegradable options such as paper bags — and using it to support a local charity. The council agreed to hold a workshop with resident Amy Timeus — who proposed the ban — later in March to address concerns about the money.
Timeus had twice proposed the ban, once in 2015 and at the council’s February meeting.
In February, Timeus asked the council to revisit its position on banning single-use, plastic bags. She said it was too difficult to collect signatures and put the ban on a ballot, as council had asked her to do previously.
The ban she proposed included a charge to eco-friendly or paper bags of 10 cents, of which 3 cents would be paid to the store providing the bags, and 7 cents would be sent to the Wild Rogue Youth Fund (WRYF), a local charity.
Councilor Larry Brennan said he felt the fee was a tax and said he would not impose a tax on citizens without their consent.
Mayor Karl Popoff said he was similarly hesitant to tax citizens without a vote on the matter.
Brennan also noted the state was now considering a bill to ban single-use bags and allow retailers to collect a straight 10-cent fee to pay for the more expensive bags. He said if the bill passes, the city’s position on the matter would not matter.
Popoff said he was told the state bill was being offered because many Oregon cities had banned the bags in various manners, and the state bill would unify the rules and thus simplify and standardize the bans.
“If the state votes this in,” he said, “it’s done.”
House Bill 2509 would ban single-use checkout bags, with certain exceptions, much like what Timeus and some Gold Beach residents were requesting, although her proposal would add a fee or tax on the eco-friendly bags to offset the costs to retailers and support the WRYF.
She and other residents said due to Gold Beach’s location — a river on one side and the ocean on another — the single-use plastic bags were even more of a hazard because they end up in the water, pollute the Rogue River or the ocean and harm wildlife.
City Administrator Jodi Fritts, who said the council had consulted with its legal counsel before the meeting in an executive session, asked council to wave its attorney-client privilege so she could discuss the legal considerations of the local ban. The council voted to do so.
Fritts said the money collected by retailers for the more expensive bags typically stays with the retailers, and the city’s counsel was unsure if collecting some of that money and giving it to a private charity would be legal or might require the city to administer or regulate the use of the money to ensure it was used “for the public good” as required by law. She noted the city might not have sufficient time or personnel to do so, and the charity would have to keep all documents related to that money available for public access.
Councilor Becky Campbell told Timeus if she asked for a straight ban on the bags, she would have a good chance of it passing.
Other councilors said they too were open to a straight ban.
The city should not choose which charities to support, according to Brennan.
“Why not give the money to the Soroptimists,” he said, “or the animal shelter?”
Timeus said she could agree to a straight ban but wanted the fees set so the stores were not making money on the change in bags.
She and the council agreed to meet later in the month to address those issues.
During its February meeting, the council asked Luke Martinez of Gold Beach Disc Golf and Anthony Darling of Wild Rivers Mountain Bike Club to work with Public Works Superintendent Will Newdall to develop land in Buffington Park to include multi-use trails and additional disc golf holes.
Newdall met with Martinez, Darling and Alan Plaep about their plans, and said he had developed a task list for the city and the groups to complete most of the proposed changes, although he said two of the planned disc-golf holes were on or near land that was too drastically sloped. He feared people would be injured retrieving discs in those areas.
Martinez and Darling had agreed to work together with a shared goal of adding walking or bike trails that could also be used as disc golf fairways. The original goal was to add 11 holes, but two holes had been eliminated from the plan.
Matt Hastie of the Angelo Planning Group and Brendan Buckley of Johnson Economics presented preliminary assessments of the city’s and Urban Growth Boundary area’s projected housing needs, population trends, housing trends and buildable land inventory. Council will review the assessments and work with the groups to complete the final assessment before June 30.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org