Morgan spoke before the Forney City Council to explain the proposed smoking ban ordinance, Ordinance 13-01, Section 8.1202, “Places Where Smoking Is Prohibited." He advised the Council that he had researched the smoking bans in nearby cities, including, Rockwall, Rowlett, Royse City, and Mesquite. The Council had previously held a workshop regarding a smoking ordinance, but had concentrated specifically on restaurants. The proposal from Director Morgan was much broader than that, and it included banning smoking in places of employment used by the general public, offices, banks, laundromats, warehouses, theaters, and in or within 20 feet of sports stadiums.
The proposed smoking ordinance also sought to ban smoking in hotels and motels, with the exception that they be allowed to set aside 10 percent of their rooms as designated smoking rooms. The ban would also have meant no smoking would be allowed “in or within 20 feet of any door, operable window/vent or other opening to a public building, place of employment, or place where smoking is prohibited.” Persons or businesses violating the ordinance would face up to a $2,000.00 fine.
City Councilman Andy Parker told the Council, “I'm very troubled by the scope and grit of the ordinance. I believe businesses should have the right to regulate smoking in their business.” Having said that, he went on to clarify that he would be much more understanding about keeping smoke out of restaurants, but he feels this particular ordinance goes too far.
Mayor Darren Rozell and City Councilman James Hatley made it clear that they liked the ordinance that was presented, though they would have been happy to have it keep smokers 50 feet from the doorways instead of only 20 feet. City Manager Brian Brooks mentioned Dallas has a smoking ban in bars and restaurants, and was happy that Morgan compared this potential smoking ban to other cities ordinances. He wants to make sure Forney will have “an enforceable code.”
Councilwoman Mary Penn, reiterated what she said early last year as to being in favor of smokers rights, even though she herself is not a smoker. She told the Council that “two other businesses could close because of this.” She later clarified that she was speaking about Time-Out and Fat Dawg's, whose owners, according to Penn, are both against the ordinance. Though both businesses are considered to be restaurants, they are better known throughout the community as bars. Penn noted that she spoke with someone at Chili's who is also against the ordinance. Chili's allows smoking in their bar area, but there have been a number of complaints about the smell of smoke in the “non-smoking” side of Chili's. The new Applebee's restaurant does not allow smoking inside.
Mayor Rozell allowed two members of the public to speak on the issue of smoking, one for and one against. Steven Wagner co-owns Fat Dawg's in Forney and he lives in Mesquite. He said he came to Forney because it's viable for businesses and lets them choose whether to allow smoking or not. He believes he will lose 90 percent of his business because the majority of his customers are smokers. He himself has smoked for 34 years, but is now trying to quit, saying that in the few days he has not smoked, it has made him aware that the smell “stinks.”
Forney resident Joe Willis is in favor of an ordinance that bans smoking in restaurants and says in the last 6-8 months he has noticed more of a cigarette smoke smell when he goes out to eat in Forney. He said it is so bad that he has begun eating elsewhere. Another resident, Todd Hardy stood up to speak about a different topic, but then touched on the smoking ban by saying that he does not go into businesses that allow smoking because he is allergic to the smoke. He told the council the city is losing business money because he and many others now go to non-smoking restaurants in Mesquite for business meetings.
A motion was made by Mary Penn to hold a workshop to discuss the entire ordinance, however her motion failed. Another motion was made by James Hatley to have Peter Morgan bring back a re-written ordinance watered down to include only restaurants in the smoking ban. Andy Parker asked to amend that motion and have the ordinance also include city owned property. Hatley agreed to the change and Parker seconded the motion. It passed with only Penn and Darrell Hobbs voting no. Robbie Powers spoke up to make her support for a smoking ban clear, “I really wanted to pass this the way it was.”
The next City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 22 at City Hall and the council is expected to vote on the re-written smoking ordinance at that time.