LAFAYETTE -- The city council made quick work of business Monday night, agreeing to adopt a local plastic bag ordinance by the end of the year and approving some changes to a draft ordinance governing the keeping of chickens, bees and other "small farm animals."

The council on Monday approved its intent to pass a plastic bag ordinance in advance of state action regarding single-use carry-out bags -- Senate Bill 270, now pending in the state Legislature. This bill would require all grocery stores, liquor stores and pharmacies to ban single-use plastic bags. If passed, the state law would be enacted at large grocery stores beginning in July 2015, and at liquor and convenience stores the following year.

Vice Mayor Brandt Andersson, suggesting the state bag ban bill is likely to pass in September, suggested the city declare before September its intent to create a local ordinance no later than Jan. 1, 2015. Doing so, he said, would let the city implement its own enforcement regulations, instead of ceding control to the state.

Council member Traci Reilly asked how closely a local ordinance must follow the proposed state law. Specifically, Reilly opposed the possible charging for paper bags -- an issue currently at the discretion of individual cities, but likely to be determined by the state law at a rate of 10 cents per bag. Mayor Don Tatzin said he also had reservations about the city, instead of merchants, setting the price for paper bags.

Providing an example of how such laws typically work, if applied to the subject of paper bag fees, he said cities could charge more, but not less, than state law.

Andersson said the city would have to wait until state law is passed to determine specific provisions of any local law.

Public comment Monday night was all supportive of a ban. Citizens encouraged council members to be "stringent" and to pass a resolution soon. Concord resident Sheila Hill suggested that adding restaurants to the city's ban would go beyond what's covered by the pending state law.

In Contra Costa County, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Richmond, El Cerrito, Pittsburg and San Pablo have passed local plastic bag ordinances, and Danville is considering it.

Also Monday night, the council discussed changes to the city's municipal code relating to keeping small farm animals, making restrictions stricter. Senior Planner Greg Wolff outlined some of those changes, relating to issues raised at the June 23 council meeting. The height limit for animal housing structures will be reduced from 17 to 8 feet; compliance with the strictest of existing federal and state codes was added; and appropriate setbacks for beehives were established to conform with the city's primary-residence setbacks.

Wolff explained that the orientation of beehive entrances and flyaway barriers -- both designed to direct bees away from neighboring homes -- were also specified in the added language.

Council members suggested adding a provision requiring that beekeepers have water on site (to prevent the bees seeking water in nearby backyards), a notification process to inform neighbors when a beekeeping permit was issued, and restrictions on the number of hives a homeowner could have.

Andersson said flyaway barriers' height and length should also be legislated. Wolff said the standard height of six feet could be applied, with length determined according to property size.

City staff was directed to add the items discussed and bring a resolution back to the council for final consideration.

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