By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
A divided Council voted not to enforce Isle of Palms’ ban on plastic products until just before Labor Day weekend, following 20 minutes of legislative gymnastics that apparently even confused Desiree Fragoso, IOP’s normally unflappable city administrator. By a 6-3 margin, the Council chose to allow local businesses to continue to use cups, plates, bowls, clamshells and other food-service items made of Styrofoam and similar forms of plastic foam until Sept. 1. The ban on plastics was partially lifted during the COVID-19 pandemic and hasn’t been enforced because some businesses have been impacted by supply chain issues. Single-use plastic bags are still prohibited throughout the island, while other plastic items are not allowed on the beach. The lengthy and somewhat convoluted discussion started innocently enough, when Katie Miars suggested that businesses are able to obtain non-plastic items and that it was time for the city to start enforcing its laws again. Blair Hahn added that “if a line is not drawn in the sand, they will continue to have excess product they will have to get rid of. They knew this was getting ready to expire.” Jan Anderson said if there’s going to be an extension, “we need to put a date on that extension so it doesn’t go on forever.” Scott Pierce suggested that local businesses be given some type of grace period. Unfazed by looming opposition from his fellow Council members, Jimmy Ward presented a motion temporarily extending the non-ban on banned items until Dec. 31, 2022. Miars responded by pointing out that “I totally disagree this is a huge hardship,” and Mayor Phillip Pounds said he thought the end of the year “seems too far away.” He suggested Sept. 30 as an alternative. Anderson countered with a plan to let the suspension of enforcement end when it was supposed to come to a close – on May 17 – but to direct the IOP Police Department to ignore any infractions until Sept. 1. “We really mean the hard date, but we’re not going to enforce it,” Anderson said. “The grace period would give everyone the summer to deplete the stock they have.” With three motions and two amendments now on the table, Fragoso admitted that she was “just a bit confused.” The Council began unraveling its self-inflicted dilemma by voting on Ward’s original motion to let businesses use plastic implements until the end of the year. The motion failed by a 6-3 count, with Rusty Streetman and Kevin Popson joining Ward and Pounds, Miars, Hahn, Anderson, Pierce and John Bogosian voting in the negative. Meanwhile, Miars expressed her opposition to Anderson’s plan for three-and-a-half-month grace period for businesses that still have plastic items in their inventory. “I don’t understand how you can do that. It’s like we’re saying it without saying it. We’re either going to extend it or we’re not,” said Miars. “I think it’s real confusing to the public to say we still have an ordinance but we’re just not going to enforce it. I just don’t know as a practical matter how that works.”
Anderson withdrew her initial motion and presented another that simply extended the non-ban on banned products from May 17 until Sept. 1. The motion passed 6-3, with Pierce, Miars and Ward voting no and Pounds, Hahn, Anderson, Bogosian, Streetman and Popson supporting the measure.
Stay tuned: The ordinance requires a second reading, which probably will be on the Council’s June 28 agenda.