Delaware City Council continued discussions surrounding the proposed smoking ban around recreational facilities in city parks. At the suggestion of council members, Assistant City Attorney Chris Ballard will change the language of the proposed ordinance to include an outright ban in parks for all smoking products.
Previously, the ordinance proposed a 50-foot ban around park recreational facilities. At the last council meeting, Ballard defined recreational facilities to include playgrounds, athletic fields, aquatic areas, picnic shelters, restrooms, pickleball, and tennis courts.
The public hearing portion continued from the March 25 meeting, and residents were on hand to voice their support for a full ban on smoking products in parks. Angie Macwhinney, who serves as the school representative on the Delaware Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, called the original proposal of a 50-foot ban disappointing. She added she would prefer to see a ban on all nicotine products in parks.
Councilman George Hellinger, reading from a prepared statement, said, “Parks are supposed to be family friendly; smoking is not family friendly. Parks are supposed to be healthy; smoking is hazardous to your health. Parks are supposed to promote a healthy lifestyle; smoking is not a habit that should be modeled by our adults for our youth to mimic.”
Councilwoman Lisa Keller previously had been firmly against an outright ban in parks. On Monday, she said she had been swayed toward an outright ban in light of all the information that had been presented, as well as hearing from her constituents on the proposal.
She asked, “Have we heard from any smoker that has given us any reason why they should be able (to smoke at parks)?”
Keller added she would support an outright smoking ban because it affects others around smokers, but she wouldn’t support a ban on all tobacco products, which would include chewing tobacco, because those products don’t have a negative health impact on other park users. She said including products that don’t affect other people simply because they’re unhealthy would be a “slippery slope” that would then have to call other unhealthy consumption such as certain foods into question.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer called an outright ban “an overreach,” saying, “I think we have to be reasonable about what kind of laws we pass that we’re not invoking our will and our desires on other people.”
Shafer said he fully supports a proximity ban that would impact other non-smokers, but he added that telling someone who is isolated from any other park user that they can’t smoke is an overreach.
The ordinance will come back to council at its next meeting, scheduled for Monday, April 22.
Massage ordinance discussions still ongoing
When council last discussed the ordinance to better regulate massage parlors within the city, the ordinance had grown to include language stipulating that any worker who would be providing service at the parlors be licensed through the state.
However, concern was raised by Shafer on Monday about how the ordinance requiring all to be licensed would be enforced after the business is established. He suggested that a licensed therapist could show proof of being licensed up front in order to gain a certificate of zoning compliance, but there is little to stop them from running an illegal business after the fact.
Shafer said he had spoken with a sergeant with the Columbus Police Department’s Special Assignment force, and that discussion raised concerns about what happens with the businesses after they get their proper zoning. He said that although he was originally against going too far with the proposed ordinance, his discussion with the sergeant led him to believe the ordinance isn’t going far enough.
Council then discussed how to enforce the requirement that all massage therapists be licensed through the state. Shafer suggested no illegal business would be able to provide proof of licensing for all service providers, but the question remains of who is enforcing that law and how often they are doing so.
By being able to simply request proof of licensing from all therapists, Shafer said it would be much easier to weed out a suspected illegal business rather than the police having to conduct an in-depth investigation.
“The main thing is that by having that law in place, the chances of somebody coming here with the intent to open (an illegal business) is pretty slim, because they know there is a higher standard of requirement here than other places,” Shafer said.
Ultimately, the ordinance was tabled, and Shafer said he would organize a meeting between city staff and the CPD sergeant, perhaps during the next city council meeting, to further discuss the details of the ordinance.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.