Council mulls amending ban

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With little more than a week left before a citywide smoking ban goes into effect, the Steamboat Springs City Council said it would look at amending it.

At the request of restaurant owners, the council said it would review its smoking ban and consider adding a process so that restaurants and bars could designate an outdoor area for smoking. The request came during Tuesday night's public comment, a time when council can take no official action.

Council President Paul Strong directed staff to research an amendment and to bring it back to council.

More than 20 restaurants signed a petition saying they were in support of an amendment that would allow an establishment to permit smoking in an outdoor area and within the establishment's liquor license boundary.

"Are the particulates that harmful to you that we need to restrict something that is legal?" Tugboat owner Larry Lamb said of the smoking ban. "I ask that you look at the far-reaching effects."

On May 17, the council passed an ordinance banning all smoking in restaurants, bars, offices, outdoor amphitheaters and workplaces as of July 1. The smoking ban does not allow smoking in outdoor seating areas of restaurants, and smokers must be 10 feet away from the entrance of any public building.

The council approved the final development and architecture plans for the 8,000-square-foot LIFT-UP building. The council also deferred payment of planning and tap fees and the excise tax for LIFT-UP. The total value of the waiver would be $13,000 to $18,000. Council wanted to wait until its October budget hearings before deciding whether the fees should be waived. The Routt County commissioners waived the nonprofit organization' building permit fees. The council approved the first reading of an ordinance approving the settlement agreement between the city and five other entities about city's recreational water rights application. As part of the agreement, the city lowered its request for water on the Yampa River and agreed not to protest future water filings made on the upper stretch of the river. In return, the other entities agreed to drop their opposition. The council approved the final development plans for 22-duplex units and two commercial buildings with two employee units. The project, known as Majestic Valley subdivision, is proposed for a 4.38-acre site off of U.S. Highway 40 and south of Super 8 and Bunker House Lodge. The council approved the submittal of an Energy Impact Assistance grant application for the purchase of two acres of industrial zoned land for the purpose of a multimodal transportation area. The land is next to existing city-owned property. The application requests $278,000, matched by $137,000.

In a letter to City Council, Slopeside Bar & Grill owner Chris Corna said the amendment to allow an outdoor smoking area could be very simple. The restaurant or bar would apply for a modification of premises permit, which would allow for an outdoor area for smoking.

The permit would be within the restaurant or bar's liquor license boundary. The area would be well marked with signage and paint, Corna's letter suggested.

"I suggest we make it fairly simple with each applicant showing a diagram of the proposed area and requiring a sign that reads: 'This is a permitted smoking area.' We may also want to require yellow or red paint signifying its beginning and end," his letter stated.

During Tuesday's public comment session, council also heard concerns from those who were part of the grass-roots effort to get the smoking ban in place.

"Anywhere public gathers -- whether inside or outside -- when they are exposed to second-hand smoke, there is a harmful public health issue," said Judy Hiester, who is the Tobacco Prevention Program coordinator with the Visiting Nurse Association.

Bartender and SmokeFree Steamboat member Anders Anderson complimented the council in creating a very strong ordinance and asked them to think about who started the initiative.

"Remember, it was started in no small part by a waitress and bartender who just wanted a healthier work environment," he said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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