OCEAN CITY – The resort’s new restricted smoking policy advanced this week as the Ocean City Council agreed to prohibit smoking on the Boardwalk with designated smoking areas on the beach only.
During Tuesday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting, City Manager David Recor continued the discussion from Jan. 5 when staff first proposed designated smoking areas on the beach and adjacent to the Boardwalk. Since that meeting, the City Council toured the Boardwalk reviewing the originally proposed designated smoking areas.
Prior to November’s municipal elections, the former council voted 5-2 to restrict smoking on the beach and Boardwalk effective May 1, 2015. At that time, the council directed staff to prepare an implementation plan.
Following the discussion, a Smoking Policy Committee was formed comprised of a number of town departments who were tasked to devise a plan of action, develop enforcement criteria and prepare draft legislation that would outline designated smoking areas for further review and discussion. Those in opposition were favoring an outright smoking ban on the Boardwalk.
On Jan. 5, Recor presented a proposed ordinance restricting smoking on the beach and Boardwalk to designated smoking areas. The new law will include both nicotine and non-nicotine Electronic Smoking Devices (ESDs).
The committee originally proposed 22 designated smoking areas on the beach that will be marked with bright orange 22-gallon receptacles with lids. The receptacles will display Ocean City’s new restricted smoking logo.
There will be one receptacle per street on the beach. The locations would be 50 feet east and 50 feet north of the sea wall entranceway or from a dune entranceway. Smokers will have to remain within 15 feet of the receptacle that will remain in place from May 1 to Oct. 31 of each year.
The committee also proposed a total of 15 designated smoking areas adjacent to the Boardwalk from the Inlet to 28th Street. None of the locations adjacent to the Boardwalk are on the wooden portion of the Boardwalk; only on concrete portions and beach access platforms. These locations would be marked with an aggregate, or heavy stone-faced smoking receptacles, as well as signage would be posted directing smokers to that area.
By the end of the discussion on Jan. 5, the City Council was in agreement to take a Boardwalk tour of its own to view the proposed designated smoking areas and make recommendations of their own.
Following the tour, Recor presented a draft of an ordinance amending Chapter 30 of the City Code and revised maps depicting newly suggested designated smoking areas.
The ordinance will add “The Beach” and “The Boardwalk” to the list of affected areas under the regulated smoking areas in place, and under “Penalties” add “citations can be issued to violators of the smoking regulations at the discretion of the enforcement officer following a verbal or written warning for the violator to cease the use of tobacco products; unless, said tobacco user is within a marked designated smoking area.”
The ordinance furthers, smoking regulations include Electronic Smoking Devices, the sites on the beach and Boardwalk where the town designates as smoking areas will have clearly-marked cigarette/cigar butt receptacles that are orange cans located about 50 feet from the base of the eastern side of the dune and about 50 feet from the beach entranceway from the dune, lifeguard chair signs and street signs will indicate there are designated receptacles, and enforcement of this ordinance shall come under the OCPD, not the Ocean City Beach Patrol. Citations may be issued to violators of the regulations at the discretion of the enforcement officer on scene. Citation amounts shall be from $25 to $1,000.
According to Recor, all originally proposed smoking locations west of the Boardwalk have been eliminated, all originally proposed designated smoking areas placed on beach access platforms have been eliminated and all aggregate smoking receptacles have been eliminated. All designated smoking areas will be marked with the orange containers that were originally proposed for the beach only, which will cut down on costs.
From the Inlet to the Pier, there are four designated smoking areas on the concrete pad leaving the parking lot prior to reaching the wooden Boardwalk as well as designated smoking locations 50 feet east and 50 feet north of beach access points across from street ends.
From Wicomico Street, or immediate north of the pier, to North Division St. smoking locations are located 50 feet east and 50 feet north of beach access points across from street ends, as well as mid-way on the beach as this area is the widest section of beach.
“As the beach gets narrower, we didn’t think it was necessary to provide a second row, if you will, of designated smoking areas,” Recor said.
Where the beach becomes narrower from North Division to 146th streets is where smoking areas are only located 50 feet east and 50 feet north of beach access points across from street ends. Restricted smoking signage will be located at the street ends up to 146th Street.
There are a total of 36 designated smoking areas on the beach adjacent to the Boardwalk from the Inlet to end of the Boardwalk, and 10 designated smoking areas on the beach from the Inlet Parking Lot to N. Division St. where the beach is wider.
“We recognize that we need to make reasonable accommodations for ADA, and tonight I cannot tell you how specifically we will do that,” Recor said. “I will follow up with the Town Engineer and Building Officials to make sure our designated smoking areas meet the requirements.”
According to City Solicitor Guy Ayres, enacting the new policy will call for a complete rewrite of Chapter 30 of the Code and asked for a couple weeks to do so.
“This is not an Ocean City smoking ban. There is no smoking anywhere on the Boardwalk, and all designated smoking areas are 50 feet east of the Boardwalk from the Inlet to 146th St, so it is a consistent message,” Councilman Tony DeLuca said.
Councilman Wayne Hartman asked the council if it would consider including restricting smoking from inside of bus stop enclosures and use cost savings for additional signage and receptacles outside of the bus stops to cut down on cigarette butt litter.
“If we are in the process of rewriting an ordinance, it would be easy to include the language of a bus enclosure,” he said.
Ayres agreed, saying, “Since I basically have to rewrite the whole article it would be a simple matter to include it.”
Councilman Matthew James also agreed.
“Instead of having to go back and rewrite the ordinance again, I would like to see the bus stops included as a restricted area in this ordinance,” he said.
Hartman also asked the council to consider placing an ash urn on the west side of the Boardwalk on 27th Street where the Tram Station is located.
“For consistency we did not want designated smoking areas west of the Boardwalk but we can certainly put a receptacle there, just not an orange barrel that is indicative of a designated smoking area,” Recor said.
According to Councilman Dennis Dare, during the tour the council was in agreement from 4th Street to the Delaware line each street end would have a smoking receptacle 50 feet east and 50 feet north as well as the designated smoking areas depicted in the revised maps from the Inlet to the Pier. However, he recalled the council agreeing on having designated smoking areas 15 feet east of the Boardwalk from the Pier to 4th Street.
Dare recognized the Pier to 4th Street is a popular section of the Boardwalk and 15 feet would better encourage smokers to use designated smoking areas. He added the council came up with 15 feet because that is the distance in which smoke dissipates.
“My concern is if you make it difficult for some people, 50 feet of sand could be the difference between them using that receptacle away from the public or just simply going to a street end [on the west side of the Boardwalk],” Dare said. “From the very beginning I have been concerned while we eliminate smoking on the boardwalk but still allow smoking on public streets off the Boardwalk we are forcing people to the street end.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight felt that the town had succeeded in its goal of having a restricted smoking policy.
“Something that hasn’t been mentioned is this is flexible. I was adamant that I did not want smoking where there would be sports tournaments or around children and families, and if we see that, it is real easy to make a phone call and move a smoking receptacle,” she said.
Following a lengthy discussion and several amendments to a motion made by Knight, the council voted 6-1 with James opposed to move forward with the proposed policy to include restricting smoking from the Boardwalk and the inside of bus stop enclosures, the preliminary map of designated smoking areas on the beach subject to change due to ADA compliance, add a cigarette receptacle west of the Boardwalk on 27th Street at the Tram Station and change the designated smoking locations from the Pier to 4th Street to be 15 feet east from the Boardwalk with the remainder of the locations to the north of 4th Street be 50 feet east of the Boardwalk. The first reading of the ordinance amending Chapter 30 is scheduled for Feb. 17.
James was in opposition favoring a smoking ban all together on the Boardwalk and beach.