By Karen Daniels
Stafford City Attorney, Art Pertile, presented City Council with a draft for the smoking ordinance at last week’s council meeting. He said that “this was the most divisive ordinance that he has ever worked on” for the city, and that “none of you (Council) will be happy.” Mr. Pertile took all of Council’s comments from prior meetings and public hearings, from voluntary to comprehensive, and comprised a draft that reflects the majority of those comments received.
The eight page draft (which is available on the City website) first outlines the definitions used in Chapter 78, Article VI, entitled, “Smoking in Public Places” such as: bar, restaurant, heath care facility, public places, retail tobacco stores, etc. The City of Stafford will use a formula of 70% or more in total gross sales from alcoholic beverages to determine whether an establishment is a restaurant or a bar.
The draft lists 20 indoor and outdoor places where smoking will be prohibited, such as: libraries, pool halls, bingo facilities, restaurants, health care facilities, common areas in hotels and motels, child care and adult day cares, retail/convenience stores, sports arenas, and City of Stafford buildings, parks, facilities and grounds to name a few.
Where is smoking not prohibited? The draft lists hotel and motel rooms that are designated as smoking rooms, outdoor areas on private property, outdoor dining areas of restaurants designated as smoking, private residences, retail tobacco stores, and bars. The posting of signs will be required by businesses to properly alert the public as to which kind of establishment they will be entering.
Enforcement of this ordinance can be by any City employee authorized to enforce municipal ordinances, Stafford Police, and owners and operators of regulated establishments. The penalties and fines will be determined by a judge, between $1 and $2,000. Mayor Scarcella felt that $2,000 was excessive and stated that he does not have complete confidence in judges to exercise control of fees. Councilman Robert Sorbet thinks they should be “confident in the judges not to slap a $2,000 fine without flagrant disrespect.”
Mayor Scarcella confirmed that the draft for the smoking ordinance will be announced at the January Town Hall meeting and another public hearing would be scheduled for February. The effective date listed in the draft for the smoking ordinance is July 1, 2013.