Eureka Springs council addresses smoking in city parks

Friday, December 16, 2016

Much like smoke itself, the smoking policy in city parks is up in the air.

On Monday night, the Eureka Springs City Council discussed the policy. Alderman James DeVito pointed out that the issue has come to the council table in the past, saying he wants to ban smoking in all city parks. DeVito acknowledged that parks director Justin Huss wants to allow smoking in some places at Lake Leatherwood City Park but said he doesn't agree.

"I understand the question about revenue is basically what's driving him on that issue," DeVito said.

He said smoking is a fire hazard. There are alternatives to lighting cigarettes, DeVito said, such as using vaporizers or using oral tobacco. DeVito said the city can't outlaw vaporizers because of an act allowing medical marijuana in Arkansas.

"As in most states, a lot of that is delivered to patients by vaporizers," DeVito said. "I see the opportunity to exempt vaporizers in city parks. You can use the same device to deliver the product, but a vaporizer does not have the ignition source that a cigarette or a cigar does."

He continued, "I feel we could have the ability to ameliorate the impact to smokers by allowing vaporizers. Medical marijuana can be delivered through vaporizer, so that's something we cannot prohibit."

Alderwoman Kristi Kendrick said she has a problem with the littering associated with smoking. Kendrick said she doesn't like seeing cigarette butts on the ground, saying chewing tobacco can cause similar problems.

"I would have an objection to that for the same reason...a lot of people spit it on the ground," Kendrick said.

"Well, then you're going to have to outlaw spitting," DeVito responded.

"No, just spitting tobacco," Kendrick said. "I would be willing to compromise so far as the vaporizer goes. The amendment does prohibit us from taking certain steps as far as prohibiting medical marijuana."

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider asked how the council plans to police smoking in a park as big as Lake Leatherwood City Park.

"Are you going to pay for the policing it will take to have someone stay down in Leatherwood 24/7 to make sure the law is followed?" Schneider said. "If you don't, selective policing is illegal."

She said she wasn't worried about smoking being a fire hazard at Lake Leatherwood, either.

"I don't know if any fires have ever happened at Lake Leatherwood, and the list go on," Schneider said. "You are outside in air blowing smoke away. If someone doesn't like smokers, they don't need to stand by them, because they have plenty of room to go elsewhere. These are all the kind of things you really need to consider before you put the city at risk."

Parks chairman Bill Featherstone said the parks commission doesn't want to restrict its customer base at Lake Leatherwood because of a no-smoking rule.

"We think it's more appropriate to restrict smoking from areas and in areas selectively that make sense as opposed to all 1,600 acres," Featherstone said.

He added that he's not concerned about smoking being a fire hazard at Lake Leatherwood.

"We allow campfires, which obviously are a much bigger threat in the way of fires," Featherstone said.

The council could agree to prohibit smoking on the trails, Featherstone said, but the parks commission can't get behind a blanket ban at Lake Leatherwood.

"We don't want people smoking in the cabins, but if they're sitting on the front porch ... it's kind of bad business to not allow people to smoke on the porch," Featherstone said.

Alderman David Mitchell agreed.

"My inn is smoke-free for the rooms, but I allow people to smoke outside," Mitchell said. "In all honestly, listening to everyone here ... Bill, I totally support your explanation. I would have a hard time blanketing the whole park with it. I think you could have selected smoke areas."

Kendrick said she doesn't think of smoking when she thinks of parks.

"I think the parks are about health and smoking is just an anathema to that," Kendrick said.

Schneider said she couldn't support a blanket ban on smoking at Lake Leatherwood.

"Logic is a wonderful thing. If you don't like smoking, don't stand next to the smoker," she said. "If a smoker likes parks and they want to ride their bikes, they have the right to do that. It's outside. It's not a closed little area. It's a huge area."

Featherstone gave Mayor Butch Berry a copy of an ordinance approved by the parks commission, and Berry said he would get that ordinance to all the council members by the next council meeting. Featherstone said he appreciated that.

"I know it's a personal issue. I don't disagree with hardly anything that was said here," Featherstone said. "If I had data that would support the premise that we wouldn't lose any revenue at Leatherwood, I'd be all over no smoking in Leatherwood, Black Bass ...everywhere."

In other business, the council approved the food truck ordinance on a third and final reading.

The ordinance says private property owners will apply for property permits and will arrange independently for the food truck vendors of their choice to operate on their sites until Dec. 31 of each year. Food trucks are required to have all permits and licenses displayed prominently for inspectors, the ordinance says.

The ordinance addresses the designated areas where food trucks are allowed, as well as how many food trucks are allowed at specific sites. There will be one property permit for one food truck from the junction of Highway 62 to the northern city limit, from Spring Street to German Alley and from the intersection of Highway 62 to Eugenia Street. On Highway 62 and Highway 23 South, there will be two property permits for one food truck each.

Property owner applicants will be entered into a once-a-year lottery held in mid-November, the ordinance says, with four separate lotteries held for Main Street, Center Street, Kingshighway and Highways 62 and 23. Food trucks must operate on the chosen sites by May 1, the ordinance says, or that site will be forfeited to the next available site owner on the prioritized list from the lottery. The ordinance says food trucks must be located at least 100 feet from any restaurant, unless the restaurant owner has given permission otherwise.

The council also approved an ordinance reclaiming unopened alleyways on Dairy Hollow on a third and final reading.

The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at City Hall.

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