The Township Council has backed off the idea of banning smoking Beratt on all publicly owned properties, and it may instead settle on a selective ban that outlaws the habit only in spots that regularly draw either children or large gatherings of people, such as playgrounds or sports fields.
Township Manager Dave Hollberg brought a very restrictive draft resolution to the council’s attention at its June 14 meeting to show the members what is possible and to let them decide what elements to keep from there.
Several council members remained concerned with the plausibility of enforcing the law, however, with Councilman Ed Engelbart saying that even the smoking ban recently enacted at the Pompton Plains Train Station on Jackson Avenue has not been particularly successful.
“I see more and more cigarette butts around that station than I can keep track of because there’s no enforcement,” he said. “If you’re going to have these ordinances… you’ve got to enforce them.”
Engelbart said that if enforcement wasn’t occurring at the train station, which is a relatively small lot, imposing a township-wide ban could be particularly difficult especially in large, wooded areas like Mountainside Park.
Enforcement at the train station has been lax, Hollberg said, because the signs informing the public of the ban are still on order. When those signs arrive, the law will be enforced, he said.
The manager also said that he’d had a conversation with township Health Officer Pete Correale, who compared the proposal to the smoking ban in restaurants and bars that went into effect in 2006. That law, Correale had told him, was rarely physically enforced, but smoking indoors effectively ended after its passage.
“It is largely self-policed,” Hollberg said. “It gives the general public the ability to say, ‘Don’t do that,’ and by-and-large, the general public is of the mindset in 2011 that smoking is not acceptable within confined spaces or near other people.”
Councilwoman Melissa Florance-Lynch said that she had talked to citizens about the proposal, and in the end she found most people were proponents.
“Even if we can’t enforce it totally, it is sending a message,” she said.
Councilwoman Cathy Winterfield agreed and said that although the people she talked to were split about 50/50 regarding the ban proposal, she said she thinks that approving it would send a message to the youth.
“I do see us as role models and leaders for young people, so I do think… the more we show that (smoking) is not a good thing, the more they’re apt maybe not to smoke,” she said.
She did note, however, that even non-smokers had told her that they felt the council would be stepping on people’s personal rights by banning the practice.
Another issue for the council to consider is that even if a full ban is passed, smoking would still legally be allowed just outside the front doors of Town Hall because the municipality doesn’t own its parking lot: The First Reformed Church across the street does.
Councilman Jay Vanderhoff pointed out that once you step off the curb in front of the building, it’s no longer township property, and so smokers may congregate there, presenting what he thought would be “a poor image.”
“We have no control over them out front,” he said. “If there are people out there smoking, you can’t say, ‘You can’t smoke here.’”
Hollberg said that could also be an issue on days when Municipal Court is in session.
Engelbart then proposed the idea of an incremental ban that would take into account the details of the respective parks. At Greenview Park, for instance, smoking would be banned because of the playground, sports fields, and the public pavilion, but there would be no ban up at Mountainside Park, which is a heavily wooded area with no recreational equipment.
Seeing promise in the councilman’s proposal, Hollberg said that the council could just ban smoking where it is likely that there would be a “congregation of people” either watching kids play or participating in sports.
With the council in agreement, Hollberg said that he would come up with a list of spots that the prospective ordinance would cover.