The Burlington City Council extinguished a long-smoldering debate Monday, unanimously approving an ordinance to ban smoking in city parks — with exceptions.
The compromise measure prohibits lighting up along Burlington's beaches and in neighborhood parks, but allows for designated smoking areas in larger parks, including Oakledge, Waterfront, Battery, North Beach and Leddy. The ban also encompasses City Hall Park, which had previously proved a flashpoint among councilors.
The final product required compromise from all sides, noted Councilor Dave Hartnett, an independent who sponsored the resolution. "I don't think anyone was thrilled about giving in on this one," he said.
It marked the final touch on what Republican councilor Kurt Wright dubbed "a long and winding road."
Councilors on Monday breathed a collective sigh of relief at the passage of the resolution.
"This has been probably the hardest issue to resolve" on the Parks, Arts and Culture committee, said Democrat Karen Paul, who sits on the panel with Hartnett. She praised Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront director Jesse Bridges for his effort to "make this work for all of us."
In spite of the fanfare, the ban is, in fact, nothing new.
The parks and rec departmentalready has a similar smoking ban which prohibits lighting up along beaches and in parks, Hartnett said. But the current laws have no teeth, he explained; most Burlingtonians aren't even aware they exist.
"We don't try to enforce, we don't use signage. [They're] a joke," he said.
The city will erect "no smoking" signs in all city parks and also indicate where in the bigger parks smoking is allowed. Violators face a fine ranging from $50 to $200.
Hartnett had long opposed a smoking ban in City Hall Park, arguing that it disproportionately affects lower-income residents.
This time around, Hartnett said he found "overwhelming support" for the ban around the city after he visited neighborhood parks and conducted informal surveys of local residents.