Hoteliers request change to anti-smoking ordinance

6/5/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

A group of eight local hoteliers presented a signed letter to the Garden City Commission on Tuesday asking the city to consider changing its anti-smoking ordinance to allow local hotels to designate some rooms for smoking.

Garden City adopted smoking restrictions in 2007 that prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars, private clubs/fraternal organizations, education facilities and public seating areas such as ball fields and grandstands.

The city ordinance also mandates all lodging facilities to be non-smoking. But Barrett Patel, with the Magnuson Hotel, said state law allows hotels to designate up to 20 percent of rooms for smoking. He said Dodge City, Liberal, Great Bend, Hays and Hutchinson allow smoking in hotels.

"We're losing business. We have truckers who are opting to stay in Dodge City and Liberal just because they can't smoke," Patel said.

In the letter, the hoteliers wrote that they recognize the health issues of smoking but want to be able to designate up to 20 percent of their rooms as smoking rooms. They said the current ordinance is a hardship on guests who smoke and often results in people opting to not stay in Garden City due to the prohibition, resulting in a loss of revenue to their hotels and the community.

The letter was signed by Nikunj Bhakta, Sunflower Inn; Chandra Kant, Garden City Inn; Hasmukh Patel, Flamingo Hotel; Amro Samy, Clarion Inn; Mike Gandhi, National 9 Inn; Barrett Patel, Magnuson Hotel; P-Jay Patel, Continental Inn; and Kerry Spanier, Dusty Trail Inn.

However, not all the signees necessarily want to allow smoking in their establishments, though all supported the request to ask for the change in city ordinance, according to the letter.

Mayor Dan Fankhauser said if the city allowed smoking in hotels, it could lead to bars and restaurants also wanting to allow smoking.

"I think this is something we have to discuss and study a little bit, get some numbers, before we make a decision," he said.

Commissioner Janet Doll agreed, raising concerns about fairness to groups like veterans organizations.

After the meeting, Doll said her husband, John, fought unsuccessfully when he was on the commission to allow veterans organizations, like the American Legion, to allow smoking in their facilities. Doll said there were also a number of bar owners who opposed the smoking ban at the time.

"I'm thinking if we let this go for one group, it's just going to open a can of worms," Doll said.

The commission took no action on Tuesday, but Fankhauser said after the meeting that the issue probably will come back to the commission sometime in July after city staff has some time to do some research about other communities and what state law allows.

At this point, Fankhauser isn't sure where he stands on the issue.

"I don't know. I understand the problem. I understand what the need is. I just don't know if we can do it. It creates some other problems for some other businesses," he said. "We've been down this road. We've discussed it (when the ordinance was approved), but the majority rules. I guess we'll see what happens."

In other business:

* The commission agreed to waive sign regulations to allow the Leave a Legacy Foundation to sell yard signs to support the group's 10K and 5K road races to be held Oct. 5.

The mission of the Leave a Legacy Foundation is to strengthen cancer-fighting resources in southwest Kansas and to honor those who have battled or are currently fighting cancer. The signs, which would be placed no earlier than Aug. 31 and removed by Oct. 13, also will help promote the event.

* Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a development agreement between the city and Stuart Johnson to extend a water line 7,300 feet east along Schulman Avenue from Jennie Barker Road to Johnson's property at 1820 Upland Road, and charge the outside-the-city-limits rate for residential water service.

Johnson is developing a 56-unit apartment complex on the property.

The commission granted permission to connect to the city water system in February 2012. A delay ensued while waiting for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to approve the line design and its construction.

Originally, Johnson requested a six-inch PVC water main. Because of the potential future development benefit, the city wanted to upsize the main to 12 inches. Johnson and the city will evenly split the $261,811 cost of the line.

As part of the agreement, Johnson agreed to eventually annex into the city limits when his property is contiguous with the city limits.

Though the property isn't in the city limits yet, the commission considered charging Johnson the same water rate as a residential customer inside the city limits. Instead, the commission voted 3-2 to charge the outside-the-city-limits rate, which is double the rate inside the city limits. Commissioners Fankhauser, Roy Cessna and Melvin Dale voted yes while commissioners Doll and Chris Law voted no.

* Commissioners approved the purchase of Sungard OneSolution Municipal Court software system for $76,398, including implementation, and an annual maintenance fee of $8,686. The software is designed to improve the ability to track cases and create detailed reports.

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