CANNON BEACH — Plastic bags in Oregon may eventually be a thing of the past, and the Cannon Beach City Council went on record Tuesday night supporting statewide efforts to ban them.

On a request from Arch Cape resident Mike Manzulli, the Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Oregon Legislature’s proposal to ban single-use plastic checkout bags and to charge for paper checkout bags.

Unlike other jurisdictions, including Portland and Newport, which have banned plastic bags, the resolution doesn’t prohibit the use of plastic bags in Cannon Beach. But it does say that the Council “promotes the use of reusable bags and discourages single-use plastic and nonrecycled paper checkout bags.”

The resolution notes that plastic bags create environmental impacts and often clog storm drains and enter rivers, streams and the ocean. The bags are “difficult to recycle and frequently contaminate material that is processed through the city’s curbside recycling program,” the resolution says.

Drafted by Oregon Sens. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, and Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point, the proposed legislation would ban retailers from providing single-use plastic bags to customers. However, customers could pay at least 5 cents for recycled paper checkout bags or use reusable checkout bags that they have either purchased or that the store has provided without charge.

Customers participating in the state’s Women, Infants and Children program would be able to receive paper checkout bags free.

If the Legislature approves the bill, Oregon would be the first state to ban plastic bags.

 Other jurisdictions in the country, including San Francisco and Los Angeles County, also have prohibited the bags.

Other countries, including Spain, Brazil, China, France, Botswana, Somaliland and South Africa have banned plastic bags, according to information provided by Manzulli.

City Councilor Nancy Giasson expressed concern that low-income shoppers might not have enough money to buy reusable bags or even to pay 5 cents per paper bag that they might need to carry out groceries.

  “There’s nothing stopping people from showing up personally with their own plastic bags,” Manzulli told the council. “Lots of organizations give away (reusable) bags. I think Cannon Beach should brand a (reusable) bag and give them away.”

Jennifer Williamson, manager of the Cannon Beach Farmers Market, was one of about 20 people who attended the meeting to support the idea. She said the market would promote the “ban the bag” campaign. Vendors would offer paper bags or biodegradable produce bags, she said.

But the owners of the Waves of Grain Bakery expressed concern about the ban in a letter to the council.

The bakery’s customers tend to walk from the beach to the bakery and need some way to safely carry their baked goods back home, said Jason and Hillary Fargo.

“Paper bags are not made to protect baked goods from foul weather,” they wrote. “They disintegrate or leave the pastries wet with rain. Our only alternative is to use plastic produce bags to protect our pastries from the elements.

“Unfortunately, these bags don’t score any more green points than plastic grocery bags, and they don’t even have handles for ease of transport.”

One solution, the Fargos said, might be to mandate that coastal vendors offer biodegradable grocery bags.

“We hate plastic bags as much as the next person. But we also don’t like the idea of compromising our customers’ experience because of the small impact plastic grocery bags (have) on the carbon footprint of Cannon Beach.”

In other business, the City Council:

• Agreed to allow former mayor and local architect Jay Raskin to establish a community-based, nonprofit fundraising organization. The organization would raise funds for a proposed Cannon Beach tsunami evacuation building. Raskin has recused himself from consideration as the building’s architect if the council eventually approves the construction.

City Councilor Wendy Higgins was the only councilor to vote against approving the resolution allowing Raskin’s fundraising efforts. She noted that the proposal for the evacuation building has not been discussed in a community forum and the council hasn’t yet decided it wants to go ahead with the project.

“I think we should take this to the community before we do all that work and collect all the money,” said Higgins, adding that she has talked to local residents about it, “and I’m not getting any positive feedback.”

“Do we really need a building to protect people or do we need a better plan to evacuate people?” Higgins asked.

However, Raskin responded that there have been “numerous presentations” about the proposal to the council in public sessions, that it has been written about in local and national publications and that engineers from state and federal agencies believe such a building is viable.

“It has caught the attention from people worldwide,” Raskin said. “It’s quite significant, not just for Cannon Beach, but for Oregon and the U.S.”

• Upheld the city planning commission’s approval of a three-foot setback for a proposed house on Forest Lawn Road. The usual setback requirement is 15 feet.

The planning commission’s decision was appealed by homeowners across the street and to the east of the proposed house. They said the home would obstruct their view, reduce their privacy, create a traffic hazard and interfere with the ability to provide fire protection.  

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