City to discuss possible downtown smoking ban |

City to discuss possible downtown smoking ban

An outdoor smoking ban in downtown Glenwood Springs may be one way for the city to address some of its ongoing concerns about vagrancy, as well as to improve people’s perceptions of the area.

Such a ban, which is on City Council’s agenda for discussion tonight, could go so far as to prohibit cigarette smoking altogether within the downtown core or steer it to designated areas.

It’s one idea that came about in recent discussions relating to Glenwood’s homeless transient population and vagrancy issues.

But it’s also one that strikes at the heart of a person’s freedom to have a smoke outside restaurants and bars, where smoking was banned in Colorado several years ago, versus the rights of people walking by those establishments.

“I haven’t really formed any opinions about it, and will listen with an open mind,” City Councilman Steve Davis said. “But there has been quite a bit of conversation among business owners about people congregating on the sidewalk smoking, to the point where people are threatened just walking by and streets are littered with cigarette butts.”

Davis represents the Ward 1 neighborhoods and businesses west of Grand Avenue

While he recognizes the problem and the negative perception it can create for visitors and people just going about their business in downtown Glenwood, Davis is also concerned about government infringement.

“The rights of smokers are important, but the rights of nonsmokers are equally important,” Davis said. “We do want our tourists to feel comfortable, and that’s why it’s on the table.”

Councilman Todd Leahy, whose Ward 3 takes in the areas east of Grand, is a big believer in protecting the downtown core as a destination for visitors.

“I am open to discussing anything that can help our downtown remain family- and tourist-friendly,” he said.

But a smoking ban is just one of many things the city should explore in relation to dealing with vagrancy issues.

“We need to do everything we can to have our downtown remain a vibrant and appealing place to visit,” Leahy said.

Controls on outdoor smoking may be one way to do that, though he wonders how you accommodate downtown employees who want to have a cigarette during their break time.

“I don’t want people to not want to work in Glenwood if they can’t have a cigarette on their break, if that’s what they enjoy,” Leahy said.

It all ties in to the larger discussion about maintaining the appeal and character of downtown Glenwood, he said.

Recently, City Council authorized additional police overtime to have officers on foot and riding bikes around downtown during peak evening periods.

Police Chief Terry Wilson said his officers began “experimenting” with it last weekend, and will continue to have more foot presence over Labor Day weekend and the following weekend.

“I don’t know if we’re preventing things from happening, changing things or just making folks feel a little differently about being down there,” Wilson said.

In any case, “it isn’t a bad thing” to have officer outside of a patrol car wherever there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.

A smoking ban would be one more thing to have to enforce, though probably easier to enforce than the current state law that requires restaurant and bar patrons to walk 15 feet away from the main entrance before lighting up.

“It’s a good discussion to have,” Wilson said. “My problem is, the way the law was done years ago, it took away an option for bar owners to allow smoking inside and just throws people out on the sidewalk.”

An increase in outdoor dining areas in Glenwood Springs and other communities also makes enforcement of the 15-foot rule more difficult, because restaurant patrons now occupy the areas where smokers used to stand, he said.

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