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Lunenburg Residents Adopt Ordinance to Ban Plastic Bags Used by Retailers

November 14, 2018

LUNENBURG -- Come June, retailers in town will no longer be able to give out plastic bags under a citizens petition passed at Tuesday’s Special Town Meeting.

The new bylaw will eliminate bags from retail and grocery stores and encourages them to sell reusable checkout bags and for customers to bring their own.

“This is not asking a lot of our society ... This is a single small step,” said Jack Rabbit, a Conservation Commission member who spoke in support of the petition.

More than 100 residents attended the Special Town Meeting at the middle-high school to vote on 18 warrant articles.

The petitioner of the plastic bag ban, Judit Ernst, proposed the bylaw and collected signatures to place it on the warrant. She said at the meeting that plastic bags can have a negative impact on the environment and that they often aren’t recycled.

During debate, residents talked about the impact a ban could have on small businesses or how they reuse the bags for other purposes, like lining waste baskets at home.

The Board of Selectmen supported the article and residents clapped when it passed about three hours into the meeting.

A noise bylaw offered by Police Chief James Marino was passed over after multiple residents said the regulations needed more clarification about what counts as too much noise and examples of when the bylaw would apply. Some said the regulations were an example of government overreach.

He and Town Counsel Adam Costa emphasized that the bylaw was about enforcing excessive and unwarranted noises. Even though some of the enforcement can be subjective, there are exceptions, Marino said.

“The police aren’t going to come to your house and fine you if you have your car running to defrost your car,” he said.

Another article that voters spent time debating was a change for the town’s demolition delay for historic buildings. The article proposed extending it from six months to 18 months.

Demolitions require approval from the Historical Commission before a building permit is granted.

“We are losing your town’s history and our nation’s history,” said Rebecca Lantry, chair of commission.

Residents who spoke out against the article said it would delay development in town or prevent people from renovating historical buildings on their property.

An amendment to the article proposed no tax assessments on properties experiencing a delay because of the rule. Another was to pass over the article until the 2020 Spring Town Meeting to give 18 months to consider it. Both did not pass.

The original article was later approved 91 to 72 by residents.

Recreational marijuana businesses will also not be allowed to open in town through May 2019 under an extended moratorium passed at the meeting.

The article proposed by the Planning Board will continue the town’s moratorium that was set to expire at the end of the year until May 31, 2019. By then, the board plans to present regulations at the Spring Town Meeting and determine whether the town votes to ban recreational marijuana at the ballot.

Voters also approved:

* About $105,000 to be appropriated from the sale of town bonds from April 25, 2018 to fund capital projects through the Pavement Management Plan

* A sign bylaw that would allow home businesses to advertise

* A zoning article that would allow the Planning Board to have 90 days following a public hearing to make a decision on special permits and for hearings to occur within 65 days of when an application is filed

* About $200,000 to be transferred to the town’s Special Purpose Stabilization Fund for future vehicle and equipment purchases in the capital plan

* A citizens petition that allows selectmen to begin the conveyance process for a parcel on Hickory Hills Lake to resident Deborah St. Vrain, who owns a home that leads to the parcel. She treated the land as part of property for years until finding out it was unlisted in assessors’ records

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz

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