By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Single-use plastic bag ban passes first reading
Camden Firefighters (W).jpg
Camden Fire Department (CFD) Asst. Chief Eddie Gardner (second from left) discusses the CFD’s recent smoke alarm “blitzes” ahead of a presentation of a plaque by American Red Cross representatives for “saving numerous lives through this special program. CFD Chief John Bowers said about 2,000 smoke alarms have been installed in and around Camden during three blitzes. - photo by Gee Whetsel

Members of Camden City Council unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance that would ban the use of “single-use” plastic bags by businesses and organizations in the city at their Tuesday evening meeting. If adopted, the ordinance, introduced by Councilman Jeffrey Graham, will not take effect until January 1, 2020.

Graham said council decided to delay the start of the proposed ordinance after listening to community concerns during the Feb. 26 public hearing on the issue.

“We thank those who came and spoke for and against the ordinance,” Graham said. “One of the thoughts that came out of (the hearing) is that we need to educate the population … not only about recycling, but also about plastic bags.”

Graham said council will put off the start date of the ordinance to “allow our staff and the community to become more educated” on the use of plastic bags and to “adjust to something that I think will make a significant positive change in our community… I’m excited about our opportunity to make a difference here in Camden.”

The purpose of the proposed ordinance is to eliminate single-use plastic bags in order to “protect flora, fauna, and waterways within the city, maximize the operating life of solid waste landfills, and lessen the economic and environmental costs of managing waste.”

If passed on second and final reading, the ordinance would impose the following regulations:

• No person may provide single-use plastic carryout bags at any city facility, city-sponsored event, at any event held on city property.

• No business establishment within the city limits may provide single-use plastic carryout bags to its customers.

• Business establishments within the city limits are strongly encouraged to provide prominently displayed signage advising customers of the benefit of reducing, reusing and recycling, and promoting the use of reusable carryout bags by customers.

• A business establishment within the city limits may provide or sell reusable carryout bags to its customers or any person.

Exemptions include laundry dry cleaning bags; door-hanger bags; newspaper bags; or packages of bags intended for disposal of garbage, pet waste or yard waste; and single-use plastic carryout bags provided by pharmacists or veterinarians to contain prescription drugs or other medical necessities.

Also exempt would be single-use plastic carryout bags used by a customer inside a business to contain bulk items, such as produce, nuts, grains, candy or small hardware items; contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, or fish, whether or not prepackaged; contain or wrap flowers, potted plants, or other items to prevent moisture damage to other purchases; or contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods.

In addition, customers may bring their own single-use carryout plastic bags to use as if they were a reusable bag.

Under the new ordinance, if passed, businesses would receive a warning the first time the regulations are violated. After that, a first offense would impose a penalty of up to a $100 fine; $200 for a second violation within 12 months; and $500 for each additional violation within 12 months of the first. Each day that a violation occurs is considered a separate offense. Repeated violations could lead to the suspension or even revocation of a business license.

Those speaking during a public hearing on the proposed ordinance two weeks ago split, 50-50, in favor and against the plastic bag ban, with some speaking to the environmental benefits of the ban while others said their businesses would be adversely affected financially if the ban were enacted.

Councilman Stephen Smoak said his only concern was the effect the ban could have on small businesses.

“As we all know, small businesses have been and will always be the lifeblood of our community, so I think we have to be always mindful of the impacts of things on them,” he said.

But Smoak also said since council’s last meeting two weeks ago, “I haven’t heard a lot from local businesses … but that’s something I’m going to be keeping an eye on between now and January.”

Councilwoman Deborah Davis agreed.

“My hope is that we, as a city, will work with our small businesses … we want this to be a friendly change and we want to give everyone plenty of time to adjust to it, to get educated on it and to decide what’s the best way their store can handle it… As a council we really do listen,” Davis said.

Also Tuesday, council gave first reading to an ordinance approving an application for a special property tax assessment for an historic property at 1025 Broad St., the building recently purchased by former councilwoman Laurie Parks and her husband that once served as a bank building and was most recently the home of Roxie Hart salon.

“It’s always great to see people investing in our community and we’re very excited about what the Parks are going to do,” Graham said. “We look forward to their continued commitment to our community.”

Davis said Parks worked “so diligently for years on the (Camden Historic) Landmarks Commission and knows practically every rule about reconstruction and renovation inside and out … we’re very excited.”

The Parks, making the request as P&P Investment, are doing so under what is known as the Bailey Bill, which allows the city to assess the property differently from other properties. To qualify, the owner of a historic property must spend at least 20 percent of the building’s fair market value on historic rehabilitation.

According to a memo attached to Tuesday’s agenda, the assessed value of the building is $270,000, while the cost estimate for the work the Parks plan to perform is $245,000, or 91 percent of the assessed value. The building is listed on the city’s historic property rolls and the National Register of Historic Places and is within a National Register historic district.

The Parks have yet to officially announce what type of business may take over the first floor.

Tuesday also saw Steve Shumake and Gerald Jennings with the American Red Cross congratulate the city on the success of the its Home Fire Safety awareness campaign. Shumake said the Camden Fire Department and supporting agencies were recognized for “saving numerous lives through this special program and collaboration where we install smoke alarms in homes to facilitate safe exiting in less than two minutes if a fire should happen.” Shumake and Jennings presented a plaque, representing a home where four lives were saved when a fire broke out, thanks to the installation of a smoke alarm, to the fire department. Camden Fire Chief John Bowers said 2,000 smoke alarms have been installed in Camden homes during three “blitzes.”

In other business, council:

• gave second reading to an ordinance approving the rezoning request of the properties located at 401 and 403 Dicey Ford Road from R-15 (residential) to Limited Business District;

• recognized Miss Camden 2019 Joy DeWitt and Miss Camden Teen 2019 Maggie Knotts;

• proclaimed the week of March 18-24 as Boykin Spaniel Week with Mayor pro Tem Joanna Craig saying, “This is our town dog and also the state dog. We’re very proud of our Boykins;”

• approved a resolution authorizing consumption of beer and wine at Habitat for Humanity’s Shaggin’ on the Green;

• approved a resolution authorizing consumption of beer and wine at Finally Friday; and

• entered into executive session to discuss potential real estate and contractual matters -- council took no action upon return to open session before adjourning the meeting.