HALLOWELL — The City Council on Monday narrowly voted to table the first reading of a controversial pesticide ordinance after residents and officials raised concerns about the city’s authority and ability to enforce the policy.

Officials also agreed to ensure more residents are aware of the proposal before discussing the matter again in February.

The ordinance was first presented to the council in August and would prohibit the use of any synthetic substances and the use of any pesticide within 75 feet of any body of water.

Rosemary Presnar, a resident involved with several local committees, presented a draft of the ordinance to the city during its August meeting. She spoke on behalf of Grow Green & Healthy Hallowell, an organization dedicated to implementing local restrictions on pesticide use, and urged the council to consider these restrictions, as toxic pesticides can have a ripple effect on water quality, aquatic life and wildlife.

About 30 other cities and towns in Maine have enacted similar policies.

Councilors Diana Scully, Berkeley Almand-Hunter and Patrick Wynne voted against tabling while Peter Spiegel, Kate Dufour and Michael Frett voted to table the ordinance. Councilor Maureen AuCoin was not present, and Mayor George Lapointe ended up breaking the tie by voting in favor of tabling.


Lapointe cited a need to inform more members of the public about the ordinance as his reason for tabling. He suggested sending a notice by mail to each home in the city to help ensure every resident knows about the proposed policy, and then holding public hearings to gauge community feedback.

“At some point we’re going to have to say that we like this or we don’t,” Lapointe said, “but we’re not at that point yet.”

Scully said action should be taken soon, and there are still plenty of opportunities for public feedback and revisions.

Dufour said significant issues with enforcement have not yet been addressed.

“This is a state-level response to ban legal substances,” said Dufour, who is also the director of advocacy and communications for the Maine Municipal Association. “So I have great concerns that we are stepping out of our lane.”

Dufour said the city would be pitting neighbors against each other and telling residents what to do with their property.


She added that it would be best if residents were fully aware of the ordinance and what it entails before any further action is taken.

Spiegel said he didn’t disagree with that sentiment, but that it’s important to look at the environmental impact.

“Water flows downhill, and if that person is using toxins that are flowing downhill into our community-based watersheds, our protected lands, then we are all on the hook for the actions of someone claiming private property,” he said.

Dufour reiterated that this issue is better suited for a statewide response, as inorganic pesticides are legal substances. The city of Hallowell does not currently have the resources for enforcement, she added, and could be putting itself in danger of facing a lawsuit if a resident feels they weren’t given ample notice.

She said it is still unclear how the ordinance, if passed, would be enforced or implemented.

“Some people treat this as an overreach and unnecessary,” City Manager Gary Lamb said Tuesday, adding that some have also taken issue with the requirement for residents to have a soil test on their lawn before they can even use a pre-approved lawn fertilizer.


Before it was pitched for a first read on Monday, the ordinance, as written by Grow Green & Healthy Hallowell, was revised by the city’s ordinance rewrite committee. It then went back and forth between the city and its attorney three times. The legal bill for this was about $2,200, which is in the normal range for ordinance work, according to the city manager.

Lamb said officials have barely scratched the surface with work on the ordinance. He said enforcement, for example, may just involve the code enforcement officer or a member of the conservation commission visiting with the offending resident and asking them to use organic products.

“I don’t know which way the council will go,” he added. “They are going to have to figure that out.”

Lamb, referring to Lapointe’s suggestion to mail information to residents, said they sent a similar mailer explaining the two nonbinding local referendum questions on the Nov. 8 ballot, and that this was met with positive feedback.

The cost to send the direct mailer, he said, would be a little under $2,000.

He said he’s also encouraged the council to have multiple public hearings on the matter.

“We really have to get the word out to people,” said Lamb, “and the council understands that that has not been done yet.”

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