A new Ann Arbor law regulating smoking outside of public buildings and also potentially in areas of some city parks has been given final approval by the city council.
Smoking within a specified distance of certain locations is punishable under the new ordinance through a $25 civil fine. Those locations include: (1) bus stops; (2) entrances, windows and ventilation systems of the Blake Transit Center; (3) entrances, windows and ventilation systems any city-owned building; and (4) areas of public parks where signs have been posted as determined by the city administrator. Except for bus stops, the specified distance is 20 feet. For bus stops, the distance is 10 feet.
Community service could be ordered instead of the payment of a fine. The amount of the fine was reduced during deliberations at the April 21, 2014 meeting through an amendment suggested by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), who argued that the city charter of Ann Arbor sets a fine for use of marijuana at $25 for the first offense.
A citation could be issued only if someone doesn’t stop smoking immediately when asked to stop by a police officer.
Action giving final approval of the ordinance came at the council’s April 21, 2014 meeting after a public hearing was held, during which six people spoke.
The ordinance also authorizes the city administrator to have signs posted designating certain parks or portions of parks as off limits for outdoor smoking, and to increase the distance from entrances to city buildings where outdoor smoking is prohibited. Enforcement of the ordinance at these additional locations would take place only if signs are posted.
The initial approval of the ordinance had come at the council’s April 7, 2014 meeting after it had been postponed on March 3, 2014, and before that on Feb. 3, 2014. The initial approval came over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Jack Eaton (Ward 4). They cited concern that enforcement of the smoking law could distract from other policing duties and could have a disparate impact on the homeless population.
Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), sponsor of the new local law, had appeared before the city’s park advisory commission on Feb. 25, 2014 to brief commissioners on the proposal and solicit feedback.
An existing Washtenaw County ordinance already prohibits smoking near entrances, windows and ventilation systems, according to the staff memo accompanying the resolution – but the county’s ordinance can be enforced only by the county health department. The memo further notes that the Michigan Clean Indoor Air Act does not regulate outdoor smoking.
Ellen Rabinowitz, interim health officer for Washtenaw County, attended the April 7 meeting and spoke to councilmembers about the county’s experience. She supported the city ordinance, as did Cliff Douglas, director of the University of Michigan’s Tobacco Research Network. Douglas addressed the council during public commentary and answered questions later in the meeting on April 7. He also attended the April 21 meeting, again speaking in support of the ordinance.
Final approval of the ordinance came over dissent from Eaton and Lumm.
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.