By James Niedzinski
---- — MANCHESTER — Voters in Manchester will no longer have to choose between “paper or plastic” after July 1.
Residents approved a ban on markets’ and other stores’ distribution of single-use plastic bags Tuesday night during a busy second and final night of Manchester’s Annual Town Meeting at Memorial Elementary School.
Article 25, which passed by acclamation and without a roll call vote, effectively bans the use of thin filmed plastic bags, commonly found at convenience stores, grocery stores and pharmacies.
Proponents of the article who spoke Tuesday night had cited the negative effect bags have on the environment, marine life and the significant amount of barrels of oil used to make the bags. Opponents noted the cost to local businesses — most notably Crosby’s supermarket — as well as the significant amount of trees used to make paper bags, one alternative to the plastic bag.
Crosby officials had previously said costs would likely go up if the ban passed and may also remove the recycling area from the Manchester store.
Officials from Crosby’s Marketplace did not return calls placed by the Times on Wednesday.
Residents on both sides of the ban were vocal Tuesday night.
Jim Starkey, a Tucks Point Road resident and former member of the town’s Harbor Advisory Committee, said he had conducted informal research and found that plastic bags were not a significant source of pollution on town beaches, though there was littering on Singing Beach.
Others disputed the exact amount of marine life that dies from plastic bag ingestion.
Thomas Kehoe, the only member of the Board of Selectmen who voted not to recommend the article, said environmental concerns were valid, but a ban on plastic bags is a step in the wrong direction.
”I agree with the proponents, but I disagree with the method that is being used,” he said.
Opponents have said they would have preferred to work with supporters to lessen the number of bags, rather than ban them altogether.
Supporters of the article said the ban would help marine life as well as Manchester for generations to come.
“It’s 2013, it’s time to get serious about environmentalism,” Susan Purser said Tuesday night.
Around town on Wednesday, resident Peter Canny said he recognizes the harmful affects bags have on the environment and that the ban is a positive step.
Diana Moloney, originally from England, said the ban was a good move.
Jessica Lamothe, Chairman of the Manchester Coastal Stream Team and supporter of the ban, said she recognizes that the ban is not a cure all for environmental problems, but a step in the right direction.
In other Town Meeting action, voters Tuesday night also chose to revise the town’s bylaw regarding what has long been a polarizing issue — the dates for which dogs should be allowed on beaches throughout town.
The initial article as written, would have allowed dogs on beaches for seven months instead of five months, with the current law banning dogs from Manchester’s sands from April 1 to Oct. 31.
But Susan Thorne, chairing the Board of Selectmen, proposed an amendment to the article recommending that the ban be eased to a six-month time frame, from April 15 to Oct. 15, and voters gave the amended version their approval on a vote of 184-96. The revised bylaw also takes effect July 1.
Thorne noted this was the third time a bylaw change was proposed within 10 years. Opponents of allowing dogs on the beach longer cited waste left behind by dogs as a health concern; the article was not recommended by the Board of Health.
Hope Watt-Bucci, who also sits on the Animal Control Board, said there have been several incidences where dogs have attacked other dogs, while unrestrained dogs have also bitten people on town beaches, she added. She said the discussion should be moved away from the amount of time dogs are on the beach and instead focus on how dogs can be better controlled while there.
Selectmen Paul Barclay said the issue is only about what is fair.
“Nobody gets more than anyone else,” he said. “I don’t want to see this back here in two years.”
Among other approved articles, residents also approved a feasibility study of the Central Street Culvert, and a study of space utilization and energy efficiency for the fire station.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.