City commission upholds hotel smoking ban

9/5/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Garden City's total ban on smoking in hotel and motel rooms remains in effect after the Garden City Commission voted 4-1 on Tuesday to deny a request from a group of hoteliers to amend the city's clean air ordinance.

In early June, the group asked the commission to allow local hotels to designate up to 20 percent of their rooms for smoking, which would be the same as allowed by state law.

Randy Grisell, city attorney, said state law allows smoking in 20 percent of rooms in hotels or motels, if those businesses choose to allow 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.

A few years ago, commissioners felt all hotels and motels should be smoke-free, as well.

Grisell said Garden City is also more restrictive than the state smoking prohibition law in other areas.

The city bans smoking within 50 feet of a public access point of any building, while state law prohibits smoking within 10 feet. The city also prohibits smoking in private clubs and fraternal organizations while state law allows smoking in those buildings; and the city restricts smoking in certain outdoor facilities owned by the school district or community college, and doesn't allow smoking in bleachers or grandstands on public property or athletic fields.

Kerry Spanier, with the Dusty Trail Inn, said local hotels are losing business to other communities such as Scott City, Lakin and Dodge City because smokers move on down the road when they learn they can't smoke in Garden City hotels.

"All we're asking is just meet the state law," Spanier said. "We're losing business because of it. If we're losing people at motels, restaurants are losing it, stores are losing it."

Spanier said if he could set aside a portion of rooms, he would keep smokers on one floor and at least could control where people smoke. He added that people tend to smoke anyway regardless of the ban.

"Smokers feel like they have no rights at all, and they get nasty sometimes if you tell them they can't smoke. That's the only reason I'm for putting it back in, is because at least we can control where they're smoking at in the motel," he said. "They're paying money for that room to go in and relax. Smokers do have a few rights, still."

But a majority of commissioners felt the ordinance should not be changed.

Commissioner Janet Doll expressed concern that changing the rules for hotels could lead to additional requests from other groups to allow smoking.

"If we open one door, we're going to open some more. I just think it's going to be a domino effect," she said.

Commissioner Melvin Dale said past city commissioners spent many hours and had many public hearings about smoking before making a tough decision, and that decision should be supported.

"I'll openly admit I was a smoker at one time. I could puff up along with anybody," he said. "When I checked into a motel room and my wife was with me, I'd step outside to smoke. If I can do that, I don't see why others can't."

Chris Law, the only vote against rejecting the request, said he's not a smoker, but he's also not trying to operate a business.

"I think it comes back to a business' right to operate as it chooses," he said. "It's a tough one. I support businesses and their right to do what they need to do."

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