By James Niedzinski
---- — MANCHESTER — In the weeks since an estimated 300 voters backed a ban on thin-filmed, single use plastic bags in early April, officials are still hammering out the details of the ban – and dealing with questions now surrounding its aftermath.
Monday night, the Board of Selectmen unanimously decided to change the start date of the ban from July 1 of this year — as approved by Town Meeting — to Jan. 1, 2014.
The change came after two gift shop owners approached selectmen with an excess of plastic bags that they only belatedly realized would be covered by the ban, which primarily targeted the thin white bags used by grocery stores, convenience shops and pharmacies.
Karen Park, owner of Zak’s gifts on Beach Street has thousands of bags left over, Karen Roller, proprietor of North Coast Too! on Union Street also has a surplus of plastic bags, and both have said they can not use their supplies by July 1. Both shops use bags that are monogrammed and are thicker than those typically found in grocery stores, yet both sets of bags are covered by the ban, which cited a specific thickness.
Officials Tuesday noted a number of “speed bumps” in putting the ban in place.
”There were some merchants that were not properly informed,” said Paul Barclay, vice-chairman of the Board of Selectmen. Students from the Manchester Essex Green Team, who conducted a survey about the ban before it passed, spoke to an employee of Zak’s, but not to Park. And voters at Town Meeting were told the ban had the support of businesses, which is now being questioned.
Barclay added that, while Attorney General Martha Coakley has not signed off on the bylaw change, the board has the authority to change the start date — and the delay applies to all businesses, not just Zak’s and North Coast Too!
Officials tried to work with Gary Gilbert, one of the proponents of the bylaw, for a different start date before it went to town meeting, as well as urging store owners not buy more plastic bags before the ban takes effect, Barclay said.
“It will give them time to get through the holidays,” outgoing selectman Mary Hardwick said of the shop owners.
Supporters of the bylaw are pleased with the outcome and wanted to work with local business owners to come to a mutual agreement.
“I think everyone is very pleased with the outcome,” said Francine Caudill of the Manchester Coastal Stream Team.
Attorney General Coakley has until the end of August to sign off on the article.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.