Revelstoke City Hall is backing away from smoking restrictions proposed a year ago, removing many proposed restrictions and making others optional at the discretion of businesses.
In August of 2011, city council gave first readings to a bylaw that would introduce significant new smoking restrictions in public spaces in Revelstoke. The move came after a request by the city’s health advisory committee to do so.
After almost a year with no public action on the bylaw, the city has retreated from their position despite little formal input opposing it. In fact, the city received only nine official submissions. Four supported the ban or asked for further restrictions; three opposed the ban; one focused on litter and another lobbied for a specific concession.
(Read the proposed revisions, public feedback and staff report by clicking the ‘Clean Air Amendment Bylaw No. 2001‘ link in item 8a on the city’s July 24 agenda.)
The proposed revisions to the bylaw came at the direction of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee, which is chaired by Coun. Gary Starling. He told the Times Review that he expects lively debate about the proposed changes when it is debated at the July 24 city council meeting. “I know that there is going to be some concerns and some discussion around [this],” he said.
Revelstoke mayor David Raven said the changes are designed to soften a “heavy-handed” bylaw that was “too intrusive into our rights and freedoms.”
“According to the cards and letters, it’s about fifty-fifty,” Raven said of the feedback. “There were some flaws in the original draft. It became a bit more obtrusive than necessary and a bit more heavy handed. The amendments soften it in some respects, but it still achieves the final results.”
Why has the bylaw taken a year to move from second to third reading? “I think there’s been other priorities,” Raven said, adding the planning department has been busy focusing on economic issues.
The restrictions proposed in 2011 would have banned smoking on city property, including in parks. The city has dialled back that proposal to allow smoking in parks, with some restrictions. Smoking will be banned on playgrounds and an eight-meter buffer zone around them. You won’t be allowed to light up on playing fields, but spectators can – if they take a few steps back behind the four-metre buffer zone.
Smoking won’t be allowed on public beaches and an eight-metre buffer zone around them.
The city has also backed away from a ban on smoking on public pathways and walkways and are now proposing installing ashtrays at the entrances of the city’s Greenbelt walkway. Neither ban prohibited smoking on sidewalks, unless the area overlapped with other restrictions.
Other new smoking restrictions are proposed, but many of them are already included in provincial legislation. For example, the city proposes banning smoking in city vehicles, although that’s already banned under provincial rules. The city wants to ban smoking in transit shelters and public buildings – both already covered by a provincial ban.
The province bans smoking within three metres of an entrance to a public building. The revised city plan calls for an extension to eight metres.
In a letter to council, the Revelstoke Golf Club requested an exemption from the ban on city-owned property. Wording changes in the bylaw now mean smoking will be allowed on the Revelstoke Golf Club course.
The city also proposes allowing designated smoking areas during outdoor special events in places like Grizzly Plaza if the organizers designate smoking areas on their application – in the 2011 draft it would have been banned. These new exemptions also apply to parades and street closures.
Smoking on public patios leased by the city was a grey area under the bylaw proposed in 2011. The bylaw seemed to ban smoking on patios, but when questioned city staff were unsure. Now, they’re proposing leaving it up to the business owner to decide if smoking will be allowed on their patios.
Mayor Raven said his other issue was philosophical:
“Should we actually have to create legislation for what you would think would be common sense and common fairness and decency? Should you really have to regulate something when you know you’re doing something that’s upsetting somebody else? Is that necessary?” he asked.
The city is planning to spend $3,000 to $5,000 on ‘no smoking’ signs and new “butt mate” ashtrays. The draft report presented to council doesn’t outline any plans on what the signs would look like or where they would be located. Likewise, it doesn’t say how many new “butt mate” ashtrays would be bought and where they would be placed. Coun. Starling said the exact details will be sorted out later by city planning staff, including ashtray and sign design.
The proposed fine of up to $200 for contravening the bylaw remains in place.
Revelstoke city council was scheduled to review the proposed changes to the bylaw at their July 24 regular meeting.
What do you think? Do you support increased smoking restrictions in public spaces in Revelstoke? Or not? Leave a comment below, or vote in our weekly web poll on our homepage.