Park smoking ban fails in Fair Haven
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | July 24,2013
FAIR HAVEN — A tie vote by the Select Board stymied an effort to ban smoking within the fenced area of the park.
With Selectwoman Claire Stanley absent, the remaining four members of the board could not muster the three votes needed to approve an amendment to the town’s park ordinance to ban smoking.
Selectmen Jeff Sheldon and Robert Richards voted in favor of the ban, while board Chairman Christopher Cole and Selectman David Ward voted against it.
The amendment to the park ordinance — seemingly a compromise by the Select Board — would have banned smoking within the marble-fenced area of the park, designating all other areas including the bus stop, parking lot and the cannon site as smoking areas.
Before voting, Richards, who was the most adamant in his support for the ban, called other members “spineless” for questioning the need for the ban and letting a handful of complaints against it sway their vote so easily.
He said smoking is a danger to people’s health and for that reason the ban should be passed, adding that it was not a smoker’s right to endanger his health. He said he did not want to have to choose where to sit in the park because of people smoking.
“I have not had to ask them to move and I don’t want to have to,” Richards said.
He went on to say that he fully expects people to be courteous about not smoking in the park, but the amendment would make it official that they can’t.
“I don’t think you will have to enforce it most of the time, but if you do you will some teeth,” Richards said.
Cole said he does not believe the town needs the ban. Ward said he spoke with 22 people who either supported or opposed the ban.
“You can’t enforce it,” he said. “I would have been in favor of it if it was for special events.”
Sheldon questioned how it would be enforced — “I don’t see a police officer going in there and citing someone for smoking,” he said, though ultimately he cast his vote in favor of the ban.
Debi Bailey, a smoker, has opposed the ban from the start. She said Monday night that she goes to the park on her lunch break to read a book on the benches with shade and has a cigarette while she is there.
She added that as a smoker she has the same right to use the park as everyone else.
“I consider myself a courteous smoker,” Bailey told the Select Board. “... (It would be unfair) for me to go to the outside of the park where there is no shade and where am I supposed to sit? The grass?”
She went on to say there have been times when she is the only one in the park.
John Lulak, the town’s health officer, said the ban was the best way to go and that many places were going smoke-free. He said asking a smoker to move does not always work.
At the meeting, a question was raised whether smoking could be banned only during special events in the park. Board members said it was discussed, but it was difficult to define a “special event.”
The Select Board also held a public hearing on a proposal to repeal the town’s purchasing ordinance, saying it was redundant to have an ordinance and purchasing policy.
Cole said it would be easier to change the policy, if need be, than to change the ordinance.
No action was taken on the proposal.