Basalt voters to decide on grocery bags |

Basalt voters to decide on grocery bags

Basalt voters will get a chance April 3 to decide if the town should ban plastic grocery bags and charge 20 cents for each paper grocery bag.

The Town Council voted 7-0 to put the controversial measure on the next regularly scheduled election.

“It’s good to put it before voters’ eyes,” said Councilman Pete McBride.

The council voted in September to implement a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic grocery bags starting May 1 this year. That move was challenged by Basalt resident Roy Chorbajian, who headed a petition drive and collected enough signatures to force the council to rescind the fee or put the issue on the ballot. The council decided on a combination of both.

The council unanimously rescinded the initial ordinance that imposed the fee. Then it approved a new ordinance that bans plastic grocery bags and retains a 20-cent fee on paper bags only. The council wanted its direction to be consistent with Aspen and Carbondale, both of which banned plastic bags after Basalt initially planned to charge a fee for plastic.

Basalt’s Green Team, a committee comprising residents and elected officials, recommended the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee – subject to voter approval.

All members of the council expressed Tuesday or in prior meetings that it would be best for residents to resolve the issue.

“This does feel a little more citizen-driven now,” said Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt. “It feels much more warm and fuzzy.”

Chorbajian didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting, but he said in previous meetings that Basalt’s council was out of touch with the majority of constituents. People don’t want government intervening on issues such as plastic grocery bag use, he claimed.

Chorbajian needed 231 signatures from town voters to force the council to reconsider the bag fee. He collected 264 valid signatures.

The April 3 ballot will be relatively packed for Basalt. In addition to the plastic bag ban proposal, the ballot will feature races for mayor and three council seats.

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