OCEAN CITY – Resort officials this week agreed to ban smoking and vaping in all city parks.
On Tuesday, the Ocean City Council voted 4-2, with Councilmen Tony DeLuca and Peter Buas opposed and Councilman John Gehrig absent, to approve the second reading of a code amendment that would make smoking and vaping unlawful in all public parks. The ordinance essentially eliminates designated smoking areas at Northside Park and changes references to marijuana.
“This removes Northside Park as a designated smoking area, thus prohibiting smoking and vaping in all public parks,” City Solicitor Heather Stansbury explained last month. “And it modifies the reference to the word marijuana throughout this code section, as the state legislature, with the changes it the laws regarding this substance, has now asked that we refer to it as cannabis.”
In 2015, the council passed an ordinance making smoking and vaping unlawful in all public parks except Northside Park, where it would be allowed within 15 feet of designated smoking areas. That decision, officials say, was made to accommodate the vast number of smokers who participated in softball tournaments at Northside Park.
However, Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito told the council in August that those designated smoking areas were not being appropriately used, and that unlawful smoking and vaping had increased throughout the park to include the use of cannabis products in public spaces.
“Unfortunately, even with staff/promoter efforts to curtail unlawful smoking, participants are ignoring the Town Code in reference to smoking at Northside Park, and are not limiting their smoking to the designated smoking areas,” a memo to the council reads.
To that end, Petito recommended the town code be amended to make smoking and vaping unlawful in all public parks within town, effectively eliminating designated smoking areas from Northside Park.
Back on the agenda Tuesday for a second reading, the council voted to approve the code amendment with no discussion. Last month, DeLuca said he and Buas would oppose the ordinance, as it prohibited park users from smoking in designated areas.
“First of all, you are outside at Northside Park, your child or grandson hits a winning homerun, and you can’t even light up a Short Story [cigar] at a designated smoking area,” he said. “Next, it’s going to be the beach. Peter [Buas] and I pull our chairs back off the beach to the designated smoking area and fire up an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story. So I’m going to be voting no.”