Petersburg’s borough assembly will go back to the drawing board to come up with an ordinance on the use of herbicides and pesticides within the borough. An early draft Monday night raised too many concerns for assembly members. Instead they formed a committee to come up with new language.

A draft ordinance before the assembly Monday was just up for a discussion and not a vote. It was modeled on an ordinance passed in Skagway and aimed to end spraying of herbicides and pesticides in the borough except with assembly approval. The discussion has been prompted state Department of Transportation plans announced this year to start spraying some roadsides in Southeast. A number of residents have called on the assembly to take action.

Resident Dave Randrup cautioned the assembly to study the issue before acting. “I suggest you address the strength and duration of effectiveness for herbicides and pesticides before endorsing a program. Don’t rely on somebody else’s word for this information. Demand actual test results published and peer reviewed results.”

The draft ordinance would have prohibited certain chemical spraying and created a one thousand dollar fine for violations. Several borough assembly members did not like the proposed wording. Cindi Lagoudakis said she was in favor of restricting chemical spraying but had concerns about the draft. “I am concerned that this ordinance once it goes into effect, goes into effect immediately,” she said. “And it will retailers, who have product on the shelf, people who have product at their homes. And the minute you sign it, this goes into law with a fine attached to it.”

Another assembly member, Bob Lynn, thought the ordinance went too far. He wanted the thousand dollar fine for violations removed and wanted more educational measures against the use of chemicals instead. “Then I had a question which I’d asked the manager and so forth earlier, is even if we put it into effect it doesn’t really have any meaning on federal land whatsoever,” Lynn asked.

“Probably not,” responded borough manager Steve Giesbrecht.

“It doesn’t. Well what about state land?” asked Lynn, with the same response. “And so what we’re talking about is we’re restricting all private use. And I think that goes a little bit… I am not an advocate overall but I think it’s way too restrictive. I don’t see any problem with somebody having some of this. And I think that’s the way it was originally written, you know some of the EPA approved things, but this prohibits all of it. I’m not comfortable going there yet.”

Meanwhile, Nancy Strand was interested in creating a public notice requirement for spraying. “I don’t know that we necessarily need to fine gardeners who foolishly wanna use Roundup or whatever. The important thing to me is that they be required to notify us before any spraying gets done.”
Under regulation changes approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2013, state agencies like the Department of Transportation no longer needs a DEC permit for chemical spraying along roadsides. The state does need to provide notice of plans to spray, but is no longer required to hold a public comment period. The DOT wants to use the chemicals in areas for weed control, and to save money over mechanically clearing roadsides. The DOT’s plans to spray have generated letters of opposition from the borough and for more than a year the local government has considered a local ordinance to ban herbicide use.

Jeigh Stanton Gregor wanted to focus on larger spraying on public lands. “Public areas, public roadways, public right of ways. Because I think that takes into account the major thing of what I would use the term industrial spraying, going and spraying 20 miles of road where it’s leaking right into our water, the sheer quantity of that changes, is a game-changer compared to what Bob’s doing in his garden.”

Meanwhile, borough manager Steve Giesbrecht said he’s heard from borough residents they wanted to stop their neighbors from spraying. “Today, we have it. It’s not just DOT doing this. People spray the roadsides in front of their house right next to a creek. That’s what people are saying, they don’t want that done.”

Three assembly members, Nancy Strand, Cindi Lagoudakis and Bob Lynn agreed to act as a committee to come up with new ordinance language along with the manager. That will come back before the full assembly at some later date.