Businesses get BI to scale back plastic law

Objections by local business owners have led the Bainbridge Island City Council to back off its plastics ordinance — for now.

David Shaw, owner of the Madison Diner, spoke during public comments at Tuesday’s meeting, not only for himself but for a handful of other restaurant owners he listed. He said the council was moving too quickly “without the partnership of those who would be affected the most.” He said the business community wants to be part of the solution, and that some already have been cutting back on single-use plastics.

Shaw added that some small businesses already are working on having a small footprint — independent of any city law. For example, many don’t serve water unless a customer asks for it. However, he said because the supply chain isn’t prepared for materials without plastic, sometimes they “can’t get the products they want us to use. Why should we be fined if we can’t find” the right products?

Stefan Goldby, president and CEO of the BI chamber of commerce, said in general the local business community supports diminishing the use of plastics but agreed that more community input is needed.

He said he’s glad the council has narrowed down “what was a monster of an ordinance to begin with.” But many business owners don’t like that a customer would have to ask for a plastic item. For example, what if someone ordered soup to go, he said. The way the new proposed law was written, the customer would have to ask for a lid and spoon. If they didn’t know that, customers may not understand why they didn’t get one. Goldby said not only is that “bad customer service,” but it “goes against common sense and civility.”

Councilmember Christy Carr said while the ultimate goal is to eliminate single-use plastics altogether that didn’t need to be done now. She said she didn’t want to “quibble” about whether a business could offer or if a customer would have to ask for the product so the law was amended so both could happen.

Councilmember Leslie Schneider agreed with the amendments but asked for a broad definition. She was concerned about gift items some stores sell that include plastic utensils.

Regarding a motion to delay implementation of the new law for a year, Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos said that’s not needed because the only thing left in the new law is to prohibit plastic utensils from being placed in bins that are out in the open for customers to grab. There’s no cost for a business to do that, she said.

The council passed that limited ordinance and will select a committee of various stakeholders to keep looking at the issue. The council also decided to rename the measure “Single-Use Foodware and Waste Reduction” to incorporate more in the future.

In the end, the approved ordinance requires that by Jan. 1, 2022, retail establishments no longer make single-use utensils, straws, beverage cups, condiments in packaging available on a self-service basis, and other items. Also, customers are required to affirmatively request certain disposable products such as straws, single-use utensils, cups and condiments in packaging. The law also requires city manager Blair King to engage in education and outreach efforts.

“I am looking forward to partnering with environmental and business organizations to get the word out,” he said Friday in his weekly newsletter.

Finally, after a written warning, if an establishment continues to be out of compliance the city may impose a fine not to exceed $250 per day for the first 20 days and not to exceed $500 per day for each violation thereafter.

Gov. Jay Inslee on May 17 signed into law a bill concerning management of certain materials to support recycling and waste and litter reduction. The law, in part, relates to plastics. The council had said it had wanted to instigate restrictions beyond the state law.

Ethics board

After planning to appoint four new members, the council delayed that decision until it talks about potential modifications to the ethics board. The vote passed 4-3 with Nassar, newly appointed deputy mayor Michael Pollock, and Councilmembers Brenda Fantroy-Johnson and Carr voting in favor.

Pollock suggested that a hearing officer take the place of the board, something Port Townsend has done. “I sent out today my suggested modifications to the ethics program and really a simplification of it,” he said. “I thought that we would want to consider having a hearings officer rather than an ethics board for a number of reasons.”

Fantroy-Johnson agreed. “Ethics needs to be handled by people who know what they’re doing. Not that the people we’ve had on our committee may not have known what they were doing, but they weren’t specific professionals whose business is ethics.”

Nassar concurred, stating, “I support having this conversation. Personally, I think it’s long overdue.”

The current system already allows the city hearing examiner to hear arguments from both sides in Code of Ethics complaints and recommend possible sanctions to the City Council, which makes a final determination.

Donna Davison, Lisa Neal and Rosemary Hollinger would have been appointed to vacant spots while David Mallon would have been reappointed.

Triangle property

Also at the online Zoom meeting, city manager Blair King asked the council to support a letter the city is sending to the Department of Natural Resources regarding the Triangle Property.

The letter lists 10 points about the reclamation of the property covering issues such as water, stormwater, ground covering, noise, communication and more.

Planning director Heather Wright said the 10 points are based on comments heard from the community over the past 18 to 24 months. The letter is to put “more meat on the bones” of the 2009 reclamation plan for the project.

Lead planner David Greetham added the city wants to make sure neighboring water wells are protected and that best practices are used with soils so they mimic the pre-existing site. He also said revegetation is important and invasive species such as blackberry bushes and Scotch broom are removed so they don’t “take over the site.”

Greetham, who said reclamation can take up to two years, added that a perimeter buffer needs to be in place to protect neighbors from noise and dust. And that the city wants to hold monthly accountability checks with DNR to make sure they stay on track.

Councilmembers asked if the city could do anything to get an environmental analysis of the current site to see what else needs to be done. The council also asked if the city could take over enforcement of the reclamation project because that is an area that sometimes falls short.

Wright said the city would have to show DNR it has the expertise to do the enforcement, and that she would research both issues and report back to the council.

It was also decided that King would meet with neighbors of the Triangle Property to hear their concerns and possibly include more in the letter to DNR.

Nassar suggested that because she’s talked to neighbors and found that some laws concerning the former mining site never were enforced. “There’s been no oversight,” she said. Neighbors “are living the consequences of the poor management.”

During public comments, Kevin Millar and Wendy Tyner said they appreciate the city demanding more accountability from DNR.

In other news

King said City Hall will open July 1 after being closed for 1½ years or more due to COVID-19 restrictions. He also said city leadership has been taking racial equity training at a cost of $12,000. And he said by refinancing some bonds the city will save $230,000.

Also, Anika Toma, a Bainbridge High School student, spoke in favor of adding more safe bikeways on the island for those who can’t drive and to get exercise. We’re “literally right next to cars. It feels really unsafe,” she said. Kaylie Treskin talked later in support of Toma. She said it’s a burden for parents to have to drive kids everywhere, and it would help young people be more independent.

Review reporter Tyler Shuey contributed to this report.