Public Smoking Ban In Parks Introduced By Pequannock Council

If the public smoking cigarettes ban is approved the way township officials introduced it on June 28, smoking cigarettes in many of the township's public parks would be forbidden.

The discussion that occurred prior to the ordinance's introduction was the latest in a series of talks where Township Council members tried to delineate what areas should and shouldn't be regulated.

The last conversation, which occurred at the council's June 14 meeting, ended in a directive being issued to Township Manager Dave Hollberg to formulate wording that would ban smoking cigarettes in parks that have either playgrounds or ball fields.

Hollberg said at the June 28 meeting that the administration went through the list of public parks that have those attributes, and created a policy that would affect areas like PV Park, Riverside, Greenview, and Foothills parks.

Councilman Ed Engelbart questioned whether the ban would affect the shooting range at Foothills Park as well, and Hollberg said it would.

"There's a playground there, and it's not unusual to have children there," he said, also noting that during the winter, the area is a prime location for sleigh riding by area youths.

Wary of the measure, Councilman Jay Vanderhoff reiterated concerns about putting ordinances on the books that could not be enforced.

"I think for the most part people are courteous, and we're passing an ordinance for things that should be taken care of out of self-respect for other people…I have a hard time with this ordinance," he said.

Engelbart also said that the affected areas must have proper signage, and if the ban was not enforced, the council would be "just spinning our wheels."

"People really don't want us to infringe upon their liberties," Councilwoman Cathy Winterfield said. "If we stick to the parks where there's just children, I'm OK with that."

The ordinance would likely be enforced primarily by the park ranger, although Hollberg said that he still believes little enforcement would actually be needed, and compared it to the smoking cigarettes ban of 2006 that outlawed the practice in restaurants and bars.

"Very little enforcement needs to be done because over time, people just don't do it," he said.

One change the council did make was in regards to the Pequannock Township Public Library property, which has been taken off the list of sites schedules to be affected.

Hollberg said that Library Director Rosemary Garwood had asked if the township could hold off on the effective date for that building because a plan had to be made for where personnel would be allowed to smoke, as the property lies adjacent to two public schools.

Vanderhoff also pointed out that banning smoking cigarettes at one municipality-owned building (the library) but not at the other (Town Hall) could create issues amongst the employees.

Mayor Rich Phelan offered to pull the library piece for the time being, but said that it would be established at a later date, namely once the council figured out how to manage it.

"Right now we're targeting parks and children and so forth…at the library I realize there are children there, but I think we need to start some place," he said.

The governing body is still looking to formulate a plan of action to ban smoking cigarettes at Town Hall, but is having difficulty because the municipality does not own the parking lot in front of the building.

The council voted unanimously to approve introduction, and will likely discuss the measure again before final approval.

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