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Lunenburg council pushes back plastics bylaw

Members of Plastic Free Lunenburg say they’re disappointed by council’s decision to revise parts of the group’s proposed bylaw.
Members of Plastic Free Lunenburg say they’re disappointed by council’s decision to revise parts of the group’s proposed bylaw. - Contributed

Councillors request report to outline town’s authority, scope of ban

Lunenburg Town Council says they need more time to explore a proposed bylaw banning single-use plastics.

Council made the decision following a presentation by Plastic Free Lunenburg (PFL) — who drafted the bylaw — and moved to revise it at their next general government committee meeting.

When asked why council ruled against moving forward, Mayor Rachel Bailey said there were several areas of concern.

“It would seem disingenuous to go ahead and put forth to the public a bylaw that members of council weren’t fully comfortable with,” she said.

She added staff were tasked to prepare a report investigating areas of concern, including if council had the authority to enforce a ban, for the committee meeting expected in July.

However, Bailey noted the town fully supported PFL’s goal of fighting plastic pollution.

“It’s not the objective that we have an issue with,” she said.

Council discussion

Throughout the council meeting, which took place on June 11, many of the town councillors and staff expressed concerns over the proposed bylaw’s scope and authority.

As per the report submitted by PFL, the bylaw sought to introduce a ban on several types of single-use plastics by Jan. 1, 2020, and would fine people and businesses found to be in violation.

Councillors questioned both the number of banned plastics and the town’s legal authority to impose the ban throughout the township.

“We are struggling, as you can tell, with agreement in full that this bylaw, in its current form, will achieve these results,” said Bailey during the meeting.

It was put forward by Deputy Mayor John McGee that the staff report be limited to banning plastic bags, straws and cutlery given there was no precedent for a comprehensive plastics ban.

Following the debate, Counc. Matt Risser said council needed to find a middle ground between what was proposed by PFL and what council could pass.

“I don’t think we had the capacity to do the bylaw as written,” he explained. “This was the first time this has been brought forward in an official capacity so I think there’s a lot of study needed.”

PFL responds

Teresa Quilty, a core PFL member, said she was disappointed with council’s decision after months of work.

“We’ve had conversations (with town staff) but it’s quite clear they haven’t given it a lot of thought,” she said, adding staff didn’t devote their full attention to the bylaw.

“Now, to have a councillor randomly pull out three items and say that’s what they’re going to consider is extremely frustrating.”

When asked about meetings with staff to draft a bylaw, as was directed by council back in February, Quilty said the two groups didn’t agree.

“The talks didn’t progress very far because really, we were hit with no from the beginning,” she said.

Still, Quilty said PFL is committed to keeping the momentum going in the community and will be available to help with any changes to the bylaw going forward.

Bailey also said council will work towards what’s best for the town.

“Like everyone in this room, we supported what Plastic Free Lunenburg was doing and we still do,” she said.

@joshrjhealey / joshua.rj.healey@gmail.com

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