By John L. Ross, Staff Writer
Smokers — be warned.
The Williamsburg City Council wants tobacco smokers to keep their butts outside.
During the regular council meeting Monday, council members listened to the first read of a new ordinance targeted at keeping smoking tobacco outdoors.
The new ordinance states “that smoking shall be prohibited in all enclosed areas within all enclosed buildings open to the public and within places of employment, except as hereinafter provided.”
“I’ve smoked,” said Mayor Roddy Harrison. “I know both sides of the issue — but our job is to protect everybody.”
“Enclosed buildings” refers to several types of areas, and is not limited to this list. It includes libraries, bars, bingo houses, child and adult care facilities, public and private educational facilities, gaming facilities, restaurants, pool halls, lobby areas and hallways in all multi-residential buildings, such as apartments and condominiums, and hotels and motels.
The ordinance states smoking is prohibited within 15 feet outside the main entrance, exit or wheelchair ramp; and within a reasonable distance of all other entrances, exits or wheelchair ramps serving entrance or exit, operable windows, and ventilation systems of enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited, so as to ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter those areas.
Council member Troy Sharp asked if the increasingly popular electronic cigarette would fall under this ordinance.
Harrison said that while researching material for this ordinance, he found much more information to support secondhand smoke claims. He said little research was available concerning the electronic cigarette.
The ordinance does note where smoking remains unregulated. Private residences is one, unless used as a child-, adult- or health-care facility.
The second is hotel and motel rooms rented to smoking guests. The stipulations are as follows: Not more than 20 percent of rooms rented to guests may be designated as smoking; All smoking rooms on the same floor must be contiguous; Smoke from these rooms must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited.
The number of smoking and non-smoking rooms may not be changed except to add more non-smoking rooms.
The third arena not covered under this ordinance is private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes and long-term care facilities occupied by one or more people, all of whom are smokers, and who have requested in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted. Smoke from these areas must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited by this ordinance.
The last area not covered by the new ordinance is retail tobacco stores, as long as smoke from the establishment does not infiltrate areas where smoking is prohibited by this ordinance.
No vote was required for this first reading. The second reading of this ordinance will take place during the February regular meeting of the Williamsburg City Council.
In other council business:
— Mayor Roddy Harrison commented about the Comprehensive Plan received by council members during the November regular meeting of city council.
The Williamsburg Planning Commission held meetings and hearings concerning development of this plan. Once the plan becomes official and approved by city council, then members must use this to guide them in their decision-making process. It is a 20-year growth guide for Williamsburg and the city council. A final vote was expected in January, according to Harrison, but now appears it may not come until February.
He explained some residents were concerned about potential annexing the city included in this comprehensive plan.
“No one is going to have their business taken away,” Harrison assured. “No one is going to have their home taken away.”
He said no property will be annexed without first asking property owners.
“We have to have a plan in place,” he said. “At some point the city has to grow.”
He said recently letters were sent out to one area the city considered for annexation.
“We sent out 21 letters and had one person say ‘yes,’” he said.
Had those 21 said yes, then the next step would have been to show a need why that section should be annexed. Then they would have to show intent.
“If there’s a section of town we’d like to annex, we’ll be public about it,” Harrison said. “I’m passionate about making the city bigger.”