Smoking ban passes 1st vote

Council agrees to outdoor restrictions, loosens 25-foot rule

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The Steamboat Springs City Council further clarified restrictions in its nonsmoking ordinance during the first reading Tuesday.

The ordinance, which is sch--eduled for a second and final reading May 17, prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, workplaces, sporting events, public spaces and retail and grocery stores.

But the council had to work more on the specifics of the ordinance, such as whether smoking should be allowed at private clubs, hotel and motel rooms, outdoor eating areas at restaurants, 25 feet from the entrance of smoke-free buildings or at open-air venues.

At Tuesday's meeting, the ordinance passed in a 5-1 vote. Paul Strong cast the only opposing vote, preferring the issue go to the November ballot.

A local group, SmokeFree Steamboat, proposed the ordinance. At Tuesday's meeting, representatives urged the council to prohibit smoking in outdoor bar and eating areas. They said they were less concerned about preserving the provision keeping smokers 25 feet from a smoke-free building's entrance or open window.

The council agreed to in----clude outdoor restaurant seating in the nonsmoking areas and included language that would prohibit smoking in restaurants even when they were closed for private parties.

The council agreed to loosen the 25-foot restrictions and change the language to stipulate that smokers stay a "reasonable distance" from smoke-free buildings. Some feared the 25-foot distance would eliminate smoking on the sidewalks and make it hard for someone dining downtown to go outside and smoke a cigarette.

"I have a problem with the arbitrary number," Coun--cilwoman Kathy Connell said.

City Manager Paul Hughes said that the "reasonable distance" language would be too hard to enforce or prosecute in court.

The council did not reach consensus about whether smoking should be allowed at private clubs or in open-air venues.

As written, the ordinance would prohibit smoking at private clubs when they are open to the general public. But some council members thought that because private clubs are places of employment, such as offices, smoking should be banned completely.

"We are talking about health risks," Councilwoman Susan Dellinger said. "We don't allow drunken drivers only on the nonarterial roads. We are either going to do it, or we are not. It will be more difficult to enforce if we have pockets of questionable areas."

Others thought prohibiting smoking would infringe on the rights of private clubs.

"Private clubs are private areas. If they want to make their own rules and are not opened to the general public, they have a right to do this," Councilman Ken Brenner said.

The council also debated whether smoking should be allowed at open-air venues, which would include areas such as Howelsen Hill, Headwall at the base of the ski area and amphitheaters. The council discussed whether smoking should be banned from city parks, ball fields and the summer free concerts.

"I can't go there," Brenner said.

Although the ordinance was a good first start, Councilman Steve Ivancie said the city must have some place where people can smoke.

"The fact is, there are people who smoke, and where are we going to give them an opportunity to do that?" Ivancie said.

Council members said the city should talk with the lodging community about what restrictions should be placed on hotels, motels and condominium units for nightly rental. The council suggested a percentage of rooms should be designated as smoking, and the rest should be nonsmoking.

Council members also discussed taking the issue to the November ballot for voters to decide. Once again, the majority of council members said it should be handled by passing an ordinance.

"If we wimp out on being able to make a decision, we are not doing our jobs to look out for the health, safety and welfare of the community," Connell said.

Strong and Brenner were the only two who thought the issue should be taken to a vote. Ivancie reminded the council that residents could petition for the issue to be on the ballot.

The majority of council members also thought it was not necessary to wait for the state nonsmoking bill to pass through the Colorado Legislature. The legislative session ends May 11, which would mean a final bill would have to pass before then, which also is before the ordinance's next scheduled reading.

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