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Patchogue opts not to vote on plastic bag ban

The Patchogue Village Board of Trustees on Monday night put off a vote on banning single-use plastic and paper shopping bags.

Instead, the board agreed to allow written comments on the proposed law until June 1 with a possible vote the following week.

"We want to see if there are any modifications we need to do to make this legislation work for everybody," said village Mayor Paul Pontieri, after it became apparent many audience members were unclear on the ban.

Monday night's public hearing on the environmental issue took up the first three hours of the 6 p.m. meeting.

Under the proposed ban, no single-use plastic bags would be allowed at village businesses other than the small bags used for produce. All single-use paper bags must be at least 40 percent recyclable, and shoppers would have to pay an undetermined fee for the bags.

"We're trying to encourage residents to bring their own recyclable bags to the stores," said trustee Joseph Keyes, who proposed the ban.

He drew support at the board meeting.

"We have a plastic bag problem in Patchogue," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told the board.

Esposito is a village resident and is on Keyes' environmental committee that has reviewed the effect plastic shopping bags have on the community. "Plastic bags are all around us. This law solves the problem," she said.

But the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, which advocates for supermarkets, opposed the ban. Attorney Jay M. Peltz, representing the alliance, asked for the public hearing to be canceled.

"Localities have adopted bans based on nothing more than gut feelings, intuition, assumption, organized pressure and false, exaggerated and uncorroborated claims," he wrote in a letter.

After the meeting, he said a plastic-bag ban would violate New York State's 2008 Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act.

"If you ban plastic bags then you can't recycle them," Peltz said in an interview.

Southampton and East Hampton towns have approved similar bans. Southampton's ban went into effect last month. East Hampton's starts Sept. 22.

Peltz had supporters.

"We're putting a target on our back for litigation. That's not a good use of taxpayers' dollars to defend a suit we'd probably lose," trustee Thomas Ferb said.

Esposito said other municipalities have passed similar bans without many problems. "Nobody will stop shopping," she said. "They'll eat. Nobody will go hungry."

She added, "Plastic bags kills seals, whales and dolphins each year."

A St. Joseph's College survey found that 80 percent of 230 respondents said the village should significantly reduce plastic bags with the most popular way being a ban, assistant professor Kirk S. Lawrence said at the meeting.

The survey, conducted between February and March, found that reducing plastic bags would make Patchogue an environmental leader, he said.

In a letter Monday night, Bravo Supermarket owner Jose Bonilla told the board though he supports protecting the environment, a ban would be "detrimental to our business, making it difficult to survive."

"Customers will leave our store to shop at stores that do carry plastic bags," he wrote in a letter, which also requested that the hearing be canceled.

Some residents told board members that small businesses would be hurt, while others want the village to wait for Brookhaven Town to adopt a similar ban.

The Colony Shop business owner Lori Belmonte says cracking down of plastic and paper bags is excessive.

"What am I supposed to give the customers?" She asked. "Plastic bags are going to enter the village either way."

David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, said, "There's been a lot of opinions, which makes it hard to take a stance."

Ferb, who shops at Bravo Supermarket, said he was concerned a ban would financially damage the grocery.

"Things change," said trustee Lori Devlin, reflecting on how years ago it was hard to envision a restaurant where customers could not smoke.

"How could you have a bourbon on the rocks without cigarettes?" she said.

Some audience members wore green and white-colored "Southampton Town We Bag To Differ" shirts.

If Patchogue approves a ban, the village is expected to team with the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce to provide each household with at least one reusable bag and notify local business about the law.


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