The majority of City Council members said they would support an ordinance prohibiting smoking in restaurants, offices and public places.
At Tuesday's Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, a local group came forward requesting that a smoke-free ordinance be put in place for all workplaces, bars, public places, sporting events, retail and grocery stores, and the indoor and outdoor areas of restaurants.
The council did not take an official vote and directed city staff to come back with an ordinance similar to the one the group -- SmokeFree Steamboat -- proposed.
Five of the seven council members said they would prefer implementing the smoking ban through an ordinance rather than taking it to a vote in November.
Councilwoman Susan Del--linger said it was an important public safety issue similar to providing police and fire protection and that it was under the scope of the council.
"Is this really different? They are life, safety, health issues. We are protecting our community and leveling the playing field," Del--linger said.
Councilwoman Kathy Con--nell said the city has been a state leader in many areas, but it is behind when it comes to the 55 smoke-free ordinances that have been put in place by other communities.
"If we really do want to take a leadership stand, I think we have the opportunity to catch up with the other communities," Connell said.
Council members Loui Antonucci, Nancy Kramer and Steve Ivancie also supported having an ordinance passed.
"A few years from now, we are going to be looking back and asking, 'Why did this take so long?'" Ivancie said.
Council President Paul Strong and Councilman Ken Brenner preferred making the issue a referendum and taking it to the voters.
"There is a sizable segment of the population that does smoke, and I would favor putting this on a referendum," Strong said. "Let the citizens decide on this issue. I would vote yes on it."
Although Strong said he would want the measure to first be approved by voters, he said he would be in support of an even more restrictive ordinance prohibiting smoking at outdoor concerts.
In their presentation to the council, SmokeFree Steam--boat members said the group decided not to include a number of outdoor events, such as outdoor concerts, Strings in the Mountains events and Art in the Park, for fear of making the ordinance too restrictive.
Some council members questioned a section of the proposed ordinance that would require any smoker to be 25 feet from anywhere smoking is prohibited or from an open window of a nonsmoking establishment.
Antonucci said it could be hard for someone at a restaurant to go outside to smoke and get 25 feet from the entrance without running into another smoke-free building.
Two restaurant and bar workers spoke about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke and the damage it does to restaurant employees.
"We are one of the last groups that are protected," local bartender Anders Anderson said. "I deserve a smoke-free environment and a safe working place."
Former Councilman Jim Engelken, who also is a member of SmokeFree Steamboat, said he talked with local business owners, most of whom said they did not have a problem with the proposal as long as it leveled the playing field. Restaurant owners feared an ordinance that would allow someone to go to another establishment and smoke, he said.
He said a small number of people did question whether it was the government's place to restrict smoking and whether it was taking away their personal freedoms.
"It's a freedom from or a freedom to. It is a freedom to choose to smoke a cigarette or a freedom from being poisoned from people who smoke because they have no choice," Engelken said.
One restaurant owner, Fritz Aurin at the Steamboat Smokehouse, told the council that it was not the government's role to prohibit smoking. Although his restaurant went smoke free two years ago, he said it was his decision and should remain the business owner's decision. He said 80 percent of the restaurants in town already are nonsmoking.
"It's an individual rights issue. I see it as an issue of how I get to run my business," Aurin said.
The council directed staff to come back with an ordinance May 3. To pass, the ordinance must be approved on first and second readings.
In other council business:
The Steamboat Springs City Council decided it wanted to restore spring bus levels back to 2004 service. Transportation Director George Krawzoff had proposed cutting off the service at 7:30 p.m. compared with 2004 levels, when buses ran until midnight.
The council decided it would look at building Victory Parkway to help ease the traffic through West End Village from a proposed 157-unit. The council members said they generally supported the pre-application plans for Overlook Park, which would provide small single-family lots and 15 deed-restricted affordable housing units.
The council approved a $78,000 budget for the urban renewal authority. The budget includes a temporary transfer of $53,000 from the city's general fund to the URA. The money will be used to pay for organization and legal costs and to begin the redevelopment planning process.
Council officials agreed to write a letter of support in nominating the Crawford House, 1184 Crawford Ave., to the National Register of Historic Places.
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