Cape Elizabeth Town Hall Maxen Ryder

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council has scheduled a pesticide use ordinance for a November referendum. A citizen petition for the ordinance brought the issue to the council’s attention, and by charter guidelines it needed to be scheduled for referendum or enacted directly. The petition gathered over 1,000 validated public signatures and was filed on Feb. 10.

The ordinance would prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides on residential properties.

The petition is sponsored by the group Organic Cape. The ordinance is intended by its primary drafter, attorney Richard Nick Bryant, to be used as a starting step for the town, hence its limited application to only residential properties.

“I drafted this ordinance to be imminently practical,” Bryant said in a March 1 town council hearing on the subject. “So at this point, it’s designed to create a baseline for the town so as you decide to regulate different and more complex areas of pesticide application, that this will form a nice baseline for you to do so.”

Only organic pesticides would be permitted, such as ones labeled as such by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and those determined to be a “minimum risk pesticide” by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Residents could still ask for special permission for pesticides in certain situations, such as against resilient invasive species. Pesticides of all kinds would be banned from residential properties within 75 feet of wetlands or a body of water.

Proponents of the ordinance expressed a desire for the issue to go the June referendum, as pesticides are a seasonal issue. The council chose to put the ordinance on the November referendum to give the town more time for the amendment process, more time for the public to learn about the issue, and because the November referendum has a much higher voter turnout.

“I think the approach of going to November will give us time to work through our ordinance process and make sure that we are making amendments to the draft that are in line with what’s allowed under state law,” said council chair Jeremy Gabrielson. “… but also, that we are putting the best ordinance that we can with the most clarity possible in front of voters in November. And that I think will probably take us and the ordinance committee right up through the August deadline to get that work done. So hopefully this gives everyone time to become more informed about the topic and also gives us time to work through more of our normal process.”

For more information, as well as the ordinance itself, visit the town’s website,

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