The possibility of a Lansdale Borough smoking ban in borough parks is headed back to all committees for discussion.
Committees will discuss two paramount points that were brought up at the meeting Wednesday night: What should be considered a designated smoking area at borough-owned facilities? and How do you enforce such a law?
Councilwoman Mary Fuller on Wednesday made a motion for the borough solicitor to prepare and advertise an ordinance banning smoking in all borough parks and recreation facilities, except at designated smoking areas.
Prior to the vote on the motion, council Vice President Paul Clemente asked why not make the ban for all borough-owned properties, with the exception of designated areas, instead of limiting it to parks and recreation. He then made a new amended motion for such.
However, borough Manager Timi Kirchner suggested committees continue discussion on the topic, so that there's a satisfaction on where designated smoking areas would be located at borough facilities.
In the end, council voted 8-0 to table the motion, as prompted by Clemente, until the topic could be discussed further in all committees, most importantly administration and finance. Councilman Dan Dunigan was not present at the meeting.
Councilman Jack Hansen said that in the last week that this item has been known to be on the agenda, he has had calls non-stop in support of the ban.
"I believe my phone line has been melted, because I've had so many calls from my constituents saying they support this very much. They do not want smoking in our borough parks. I will support Mr. Clemente's amended motion," Hansen said.
However, Councilman Steve Malagari wanted some clarification on Clemente's motion: Did it include all property up to and including the sidewalk?
"That way, if a worker decided to go for a smoke break, would they not only be allowed to do it outside the building, to the right or left, or within a certain amount of feet within the door or entrance? Or would it go out to the sidewalk adjacent to the street?" Malagari said.
Clemente said he had not thought about that detail. He assumed there would be some designated area outside borough buildings.
"I think we'll have to maintain a designated area for the people that are here that smoke. Obviously, there are people that still do," said councilman Mike Sobel said. "What I'm thinking is keep it away from the entrance where people have to come in and out. We don't want to stop people from smoking completely."
Fuller said it was important to keep in mind that it was simply an authorization to advertise for an ordinance.
"If there was a problem with the designated areas, we would be told as such before," she said.
Solicitor Mark Hosterman said there was no specification when to advertise, so the public should be able to see the language first.
Sobel said the argument would come up at some point in the future: You did it at the parks, why didn't you do it everywhere else?
Borough Manager Timi Kirchner clarified that the ordinance was just to prepare and advertise and wouldn't be voted on to become an ordinance for another month.
She suggested the topic be discussed at the committee level.
"It seems to me it should be discussed at administration and finance committee because that's the overarching committee for things like this," Kirchner said.
She said staff should work with Hosterman to work out details on the designated areas.
"There are a number of different buildings, and we do have staff that do smoke. I'm sure people have a lot of opinions as to what should be designated and what shouldn't."
Fuller said the parks and recreation committee believed it had jurisdiction to recommend the smoking ban.
Council President Matt West agreed that the topic must be discussed in administration and finance, and that it was fair for it to be discussed in all other committees.
"There is an interest to apply this to all borough facilities," he said.
Resident James Love, of Edgemont Avenue, asked how the borough was going to enforce the ordinance, especially in Railroad Plaza.
"I want it to be considered," Love said.
West said he didn't have the answer at the moment.
"Maybe have nominations for volunteer smoking police?" West joked.
Sobel said it would be easier to enforce at the pools, where employees and users can ask an uncooperative person to leave or move to a designated area.
"I think some of the other places, I agree, how are you going to enforce White's Road Park somewhere back on the path if nobody sees them? That's something we're going to have to work on," Sobel said.
Kirchner added that enforcement would be thoroughly discussed with the management team.
"For our other properties and our own personnel, it is enforceable. That would become part of our policy manual," she said. "With regard to Railroad Plaza, that is a very good point. How do we enforce it? It will be an ordinance on our books so we must enforce it. We will be coming forth with a solution to all of that."
West asked what the discussion was on the topic in the parks and recreation committee. Fuller said the committee knows it will be an issue and one that will not be able to be enforced 100 percent.
"Our hope is, first, because that's a regulation, we hope people follow it," she said. "We are suspecting and hoping that neighbors will police neighbors."
She said parks and recreation will announce before park events that there is no smoking, and managers and staff could enforce it at the pool level, for instance.
She said signs would be put up notifying people of the ban.
West compared possible borough enforcement to SEPTA's Quiet Ride Car.
"What they do is it's a regulation. You're not allowed to talk on your phone, loud music on the first car of any car that is five cars or longer, and it's self-policing," he said. "You'd be surprised how well it works."
Hansen said there are a lot of events in the borough, like Mardi Gras Parade and Under the Lights Car Show, and it should be discussed how the ban would be handled at those events.
"We are doing such a great job bringing people into the borough, we don't want to start chasing them away," Hansen said. "We don't want people leaving the borough because somebody's smoking. It's something that has to be in the discussion."