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Arlington Town Meeting defeats bottle ban, softens leaf blower restrictions

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 seasonal ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers.

By a voice vote, Town Meeting members turned down the proposal by three Arlington High School seniors, Amy Currul, Sonia Zacher, and Marina Milan, to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles smaller than 1 liter 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 their article.

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Currul said the proposal was modeled after a similar ban in Concord, and was aimed at reducing the number of plastic bottles in 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 on Wednesday night, when several Town Meeting members and Andrew Ziner, manager of the Stop & Shop store in Arlington, suggested the ban would force 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 hurt business at local stores.

“Stop & Shop is going on the record opposing this,” Ziner said.

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.

Members also voted 113-95 in favor of a new bylaw regulating the use of leaf blowers in Arlington that will undo much of the controversial ban narrowly approved by Town Meeting last year, which prohibited the use of gas-powered leaf blowers on private property from May 15 through Oct. 15.

Opposition to the ban led to a special town election in July in which a majority of voters supported overturning the bylaw, but the total fell just shy of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a decision by Town Meeting.

In the fall, Special Town Meeting approved setting up a a special committee to explore a way to amend the ban.

Under the compromise approved by Town Meeting during Wednesday’s session, restrictions on leaf blowers with combustion engines would apply only to commercial and municipal use of the devices.

The new bylaw also set the seasonal restriction to run from June 15 through Sept. 15, and would allow commercial and municipal workers to use leaf blowers with combustion engines only from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Also, the machines could be used for only 30 minutes at a time under the proposal.

In other action, Town Meeting voted to appropriate $25,000 to pay for a visitor center as part of an effort to boost tourism in the town.

The temporary facility will be set up on Uncle Sam Plaza in Arlington Center.

Brock parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.

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