OGUNQUIT, Maine — The Conservation Commission held a special meeting July 10, with Town Clerk Chris Murphy in attendance, to decide which direction to go with the recently passed pesticide ordinance voided by the Maine Board of Pesticide Control as a result of administrative errors.
The ordinance was passed 206-172 by voters at the June 10 town meeting, but, according to Maine Board of Pesticide Control Board director Henry Jennings, the ordinance is null and void because the town missed several deadlines, including giving the board 90 days to review the ordinance and a seven-day notice to the agency that the ordinance would go before voters.
The ordinance looks to eliminate the use of common outdoor pesticides and poisons through education and voluntary action, as it has “no teeth,” according to Conservation Commission Chairman Michael Horn.
An additional problem with the ordinance is it does not exempt commercial agriculture or some household chemicals that could open the town up to legal action.
“Some farms just can’t operate without the use of pesticides of some sort,” said Horn.
In the weeks since the ordinance was voided, Horn, Town Manager Tom Fortier and Jennings have met to discuss ways to move forward.
On June 10, Horn and the Conservation Commission decided to “tighten up” the ordinance by amending the language to include the exemptions suggested by the state, give the control board proper notice and place the amended version on the ballot in November, provided it passed the Select Board’s muster.
“Re-adopting the ordinance with exemptions will make it lawful,” said Murphy. “Take what you did in June and redo with exemptions and get to state within the 90-day period.”
Conservation Commission member Douglas Mayer added, “it would be wise of us to add these. We should come in line with the state exemptions.”
The exemptions include such things as swimming pool supplies, outdoor paints and stains, some pet insect repellents and “commercial agriculture as defined by the state statutes.”
The first hurdle the amended ordinance needs to clear is the Select Board. The commission hopes to present the amended ordinance at the board’s July 15 meeting.
If the board clears the new version for the ballot, the town once again will have its say at the Nov. 4 election.
“Is this going to be a problem getting by the board?” asked commission member Bill Baker.
“A great plurality wanted this,” said Horn of the June vote. “This was a big step.”