OCEAN CITY – Some City Council members changed their votes this week on a smoking ban in public parks after the ordinance’s wording was altered.
A couple weeks ago, the council voted unanimously with no discussion to ban smoking from public parks. This week, the votes changed due to the language of the ordinance.
The ordinance states smoking is unlawful in the following public parks — Ocean Bowl Skate Park, Ocean City Tennis Center at 61st Street and Coastal Highway, playgrounds at Bayside Park, playgrounds at Robin Park, playgrounds at Little Salisbury Park, playgrounds at Northside Park, playgrounds at Gorman Park and playgrounds at North Surf Park.
The way the ordinance is written only the playground area will exclude smokers from certain public parks, not the entire park.
“I thought our intent was to do the entire park,” Councilman Joe Hall said. “Our policy, it wasn’t in ordinance form, has already been no smoking in the playground areas.”
The council forwarded the policy to ordinance form last December during a public hearing to ban smoking from Ocean City’s Boardwalk, beach and public parks. The council decided to exclude the Boardwalk and beach from the ordinance and instead decided to create designated smoking stations to “educate” smokers.
Councilman Lloyd Martin responded that the policy was no smoking in the playground area of the parks and the council decided to put it in ordinance form.
“This does more than that. We need to go back and say the playground in those areas which we had a policy anyway,” Martin said.
Upon discussion, the council decided to add the municipal tennis courts located south of 3rd Street downtown to the list of locations banning smoking.
Councilman Brent Ashley decided to vote against it this time around due to his policy against government intrusion.
“I understand the intent,” Ashley said. “For me once again like I was with the sprinkler situation, I am against government mandate and trying to regulate individual behavior.”
The council voted to approve the smoking ban in the designated areas in a vote of 4-3, with Councilman Brent Ashley, Councilman Doug Cymek and Council Secretary Lloyd Martin in opposition.
“This is a good step forward,” Council President Jim Hall said.