Arlington Town Meeting shot down a proposal to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles Wednesday night and approved a plan to significantly soften the town’s controversial leaf blower ban.
By a voice vote, Town Meeting voted against the proposal by three Arlington High School seniors, Amy Currul, Sonia Zacher and Marina Milan, to ban the sale of plastic water bottles smaller than one liter in the town after Jan. 1, 2014. The students are all members of the Students Against Violating the Environment club at the high school, and Town Meeting member Harry McCabe sponsored the town meeting article.Currul said the proposal was modeled after a similar ban in Concord and was aimed at reducing the negative impact of the plastic bottles on the environment.
“Bottled water is a small product, but it has a large impact when it comes to the Earth’s future,” Currul said.
But the proposal met opposition at Town Hall Wednesday night when several Town Meeting members and Andrew Ziner, the store manager of Stop & Shop in Arlington, suggested the ban would force Arlington residents to go out of town to buy their bottled water.
Ziner said that the ban would also reduce the healthy consumption of water, and would impact sales at local businesses.
“Stop & Shop is going on the record opposing this,” Ziner said.
Arlington Town Meeting member Sean Harrington said the plastic bottles can be recycled, and more efforts need to be made to encourage recycling instead of banning plastic water bottles.
“It’s really a bad thing for the town of Arlington and quite honestly a bad thing for consumer choice,” Harrington said.
Town Meeting also voted 113 to 95 in favor of new laws regulating the use of leaf blowers in Arlington that will undue much of the controversial ban narrowly approved by Town Meeting last year that prohibited the use of gas-powered leaf blowers on private property from May 15 to Oct. 15.
Opposition to the ban led to a special town election in July in which a strong majority of people cast votes to overturn the bylaw, but opponents fell just shy of the number of votes needed to overturn a decision by Town Meeting. In the fall, a special Town Meeting voted that the town should set up a special committee to explore a way to amend the ban.
Under the compromise approved by Town Meeting Wednesday, restrictions on leaf blowers with combustion engines would only apply to commercial and municipal use of the devices. The new law set the seasonal restriction from June 15 to Sept. 15 and would only allow commercial and municipal workers to use leaf blowers with combustion engines from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Leaf blowers could only be used for 30 minutes at a time under the proposal.
In other action, Town Meeting voted to appropriate $25,000 to pay for a temporary visitor center that will be located at Uncle Sam Plaza in Arlington Center in an effort to boost tourism to the town.