GOSHEN — The city of Goshen now has a smoking/vaping ordinance that is more restrictive than current state law.
During their meeting Tuesday evening, Goshen City Council members approved the controversial new ordinance, titled “Restrictions on Smoking and use of E-Cigarettes, Vaping,” on second and final reading in a vote of 6-1.
Voting for the ordinance were council members Julia Gautsche, Julia King, Jim McKee, Doug Nisley, Adam Scharf and Brett Weddell. Councilman Mike Orgill was the sole “No” vote.
Tuesday’s action served as the culmination of more than a year’s worth of work on the subject by the council.
Back in August 2017, Gautsche first broached the subject of a smoking/vaping ordinance for the city, and then again in April when the council tabled a discussion on banning smoking/vaping in city parks.
After languishing for several months, council members Aug. 7 were presented with an initial first draft of the proposed ordinance, jointly presented by Gautsche and fellow council member Jim McKee. The ordinance would go on to be approved on first reading during the council's Aug. 21 meeting, but only after more than three hours of debate on both sides of the issue from council and community members alike.
The city in recent years has operated without its own smoking ordinance, instead choosing to follow the existing state smoking ban law, which has an 8-foot buffer required for smoking near public entrances, and allows the owners of certain businesses the choice of allowing smoking on their premises.
Adopted in 2012, the state ban exempts bars, taverns, tobacco retail shops, cigar bars, hookah bars, state-licensed gaming facilities, licensed horse track facilities and membership clubs, according to information from the state government.
As originally proposed, the city ordinance had called for a comprehensive ban on smoking/vaping in public places in the city. The highlights of the ordinance as first presented included:
• Expanding the existing state smoking ban by prohibiting smoking in city parks and outside dining areas.
• Removing most of the state-approved business exemptions with the exception of clubs, fraternal clubs and labor organizations.
• Banning the use of vaping devices, often called e-cigarettes, in all areas where smoking is prohibited within the city.
• Extending the existing 8-foot buffer zone to 15 feet.
However, by the conclusion of the council’s hours-long first reading Aug. 21, a number of changes had been agreed to, significantly changing the overall look of the proposed ordinance. A snapshot of the most notable changes included:
• Approved amendments to remove bars, tobacco specialty bars, tobacco retail stores and vaping shops from the list of locations where smoking and vaping would be prohibited under the new ordinance.
• Removal of a section of the ordinance that would have increased the 8-foot buffer required for smoking near a public entrance to 15 feet. Council members did vote to add a 15-foot buffer for all outdoor public transportation stations, platforms and shelters.
Part of the proposed ordinance remained, including:
• Calls for a prohibition on smoking in city parks and outside dining areas, as noted in the initial proposal.
• Calls for a ban on the use of vaping devices and e-cigarettes in all areas where smoking is prohibited within the city.
With their second and final reading of the ordinance, council members Tuesday presented several additional amendments that appeared to be aimed at more of a general spirit of compromise than what had been seen during their first reading of the resolution.
By the end of their discussion, a total of three additional amendments had been approved by the council before the second and final reading of the ordinance took place.
A snapshot of those three amendments includes:
• An amendment by King to remove “bars” from being exempt from the smoking ban, and requiring that all future bars established in the city be smoke free. However, the amendment does provide the stipulation that the three bars currently allowing smoking in Goshen be “grandfathered” from being required to abide by the smoking ban — an exemption that will continue with the sale of the property.
• An amendment by Gautsche, which prohibits smoking in all outdoor dining areas within the public right of way, as well as in all outdoor seating areas of restaurants, bars and businesses — with the exception of benches and those seating areas restricted to individuals over the age of 18 — and all areas within 8 feet of where smoking is prohibited.
• An amendment by Weddell to change the previously amended 15-foot buffer at all outdoor public transportation stations, platforms and shelters back to 8 feet in the interest of clarity and enforceability, given that all other agreed upon buffers within the ordinance are 8 feet.
Calls to allow smoking only on park trails and to give the Goshen Parks Department authority to circumvent the smoking ban for certain park events were ultimately unsuccessful.
Prior to Tuesday’s final vote, Councilman McKee thanked Gautsche, his co-sponsor, for her work with the initial ordinance and her willingness to compromise in order to see the final product approved.
“She had some ideas, I had some ideas, and we kind of wanted to throw it against the wall and see if it would stick,” McKee said of his agreeing to co-sponsor the ordinance. “I thought it was worthwhile to see what people wanted, which is what we did. I’ve worked with Julia for a few years now, and I appreciate your attitude and being able to work things out, even though we disagree sometimes.”
Gautsche offered a similar sentiment.
“I just wanted to thank Councilman McKee for co-sponsoring this with me,” Gautsche said, noting that while the final product wasn’t necessarily as comprehensive as she would have liked, she felt it was a good shot at a compromise. “I think we have made steps forward. So I thank everyone who voted for this ordinance. It has been a good finding of middle ground.”
According to the ordinance language, with its approval on final reading Tuesday, the ordinance will go into effect upon passage and publication as required by law, though with the exception that bars and taverns will be given until Jan. 1, 2019, to implement the ordinance.