Concord’s Bottle Bylaw Tested Once Again

Published On October 23, 2013 | By Hannah Ellsbury | Articles

At Concord’s special Town Meeting in December, voters will have another chance to decide whether or not the bylaw banning the sale of single-serve plastic water bottles should stick around in town.

According to Town Clerk Anita Tekle, one resident, Michael Benn, opted to hand in a petition article looking to overturn the ban by Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline in order for it to be placed on the warrant for Concord’s special Town Meeting coming up Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at Concord-Carlisle High School.

One hundred signatures by registered voters in town were required and Tekle said she confirmed 149.

This is the fifth time in almost four years that the water bottle bylaw has been placed on a Town Meeting warrant to either be enacted or repealed.

Back in April, Concord’s bottled water bylaw narrowly avoided repeal at Town Meeting by a vote of 621 people in favor of repealing the bylaw and 687 opposed.

During Concord’s 2012 Town Meeting, the bylaw, banning the sale of Concord’s drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter or less passed by 39 votes, 403-364, and was approved by the Attorney General’s office months later, making Concord the first town in the country to implement such a ban.

Last year’s vote was a milestone for lead petitioner Jean Hill, who originally brought fourth a petition to ban bottled water in Concord in 2010. That petition passed in 2010, but couldn’t be enforced by the town because it was written as a resolution instead of a bylaw. Hill and Concord resident Jill Appel worked together to rewrite the resolution as a bylaw for Town Meeting in 2011, but that failed to pass by seven votes.

Benn, who was a part of the Concord Residents for Consumer Choice (CRCC) – a grassroots advocacy group looking to repeal the ban at the last annual Town Meeting, said by phone Thursday afternoon he and a small group of friends wanted to see a petition on the warrant because they never agreed with the ban to begin with.

He said he believes the repeal failed at last spring’s Town Meeting because the bylaw hadn’t been in effect for long enough.

“We couldn’t really demonstrate specifically what kinds of damage it would be doing to local community businesses,” Benn said.

Emphasizing he is not part of any organization or group looking to overturn the bylaw this time, Benn said he isn’t looking to take away from the reason this special Town Meeting was called in the first place, which is to acquire a parcel of industrial land in Acton.

“I’m just a concerned citizen who’s concerned about common sense and fairness,” he said.

Appel, who has worked on the Concord on Tap initiative trying to help people transition to tap water, said she found out about the petition on Wednesday from a few shoppers who saw Benn getting signatures over at Crosby’s Supermarket. She said this petition is a “major distraction” to the other sustainability initiatives the town is currently working on, including the Concord Solar Challenge and an application to the state to become a designated Green Community.

“I’m astonished that people won’t let this bylaw sit,” she said. “It’s such a minor infringement on personal liberty. It has been approved three of the last four Town meetings and as a community we are doing fine. It’s disappointing to me that these folks can’t live with it and let it go.”

Benn said he believes Hill and Appel did what they did in good faith and with good intentions.

“I and the small circle of good friends are also operating in good faith with the best intentions,” he said. “We are not looking for a public fight, just an honest exchange of ideas.”

[via WickedConcord]

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