By DREW HOWARD
Rochester Hills City Council members discussed the pros and cons of a Spencer Park smoking ordinance as well as the future of public transportation in the city during their latest meeting on Monday, March 26.
Ken Elwert, director of parks & natural resources for the City of Rochester Hills, introduced an ordinance for first reading that would prohibit smoking in Spencer Park. Elwert says the ordinance would act as a “test run” and help shape future smoking policies in other parks.
“This is essentially requesting a ban on everything,” Elwert said. “E-cigarettes, cigarettes, hookahs – anything, essentially, that emits smoke in one way or another.”
Elwert added the ordinance would help cut down on littering and othersafety, welfare and health issues.
Council member Susan Bowyer wasn’t convinced of the effectiveness of the ordinance, arguing that it’d be wise to set up a designated zone for smokers.
“I’m not in favor of banning something across the board,” Bowyer said. “I’d rather see something go to a restricted area.”
“I work at a major hospital in Detroit and we decided to ban smoking across the whole campus. It created so many problems – everybody that worked there then went and stepped off the hospital and smoked, so when you pulled up to the hospital you saw 20 people smoking at the front.”
Elwert said the situation at Spencer Park is “a bit different from the hospital,” and reminded council members that park attendees will be warned of the ordinance before arriving.
Mayor Bryan Barnett threw his support behind the ordinance.
“We’ve seen some of our neighboring communities who have moved in this direction as well,” Barnett said. “There aren’t designated smoking areas in restaurants anymore – we’re moving in that direction.”
Council members voted unanimously in approval of the ordinance for first reading. If implemented, the ban will begin “prior to the summer beach season” and stay in place for the remainder of the year.
Three Rochester Hills residents spoke during public comment on the issue of public transportation as related to the city council’s meeting the previous week, in which members reviewed a presentation by SMART Bus services. The presentation drew mixed responses from council members, with some expressing apprehension to implement such a system.
Two residents at public comment were in favor of a greater public transportation presence in the city, and urged the council to conduct more research on the matter.
“I am suggesting that there should be different ways of looking at transit so that we can get to the Tiger game, get to the museum, get to the hospital,” Margaret Huggard, a retired social worker, told the council. “If I had cancer treatment at the Rose Center in Beaumont, which I did, and I couldn’t drive myself, I would want to have that available.”
Judy Dignam, a resident of Rochester Hills for over 13 years, suggested the council create a study group to examine what transit might look like in the city.
“How are we going to support all the growth that is being presented to our city if we don’t at least have an understanding of what transportation might look like for this city,” Dignam said. “It may be something that I would hope you would consider.”
Mayor Barnett assured residents that the city hasn’t given up on public transportation.
“I’m a very strong proponent of public transportation, but with my hat as the mayor it has to make sense for the community,” Barnett said. “We remain interested and active in the details, and want to make sure we continue to be at the table as these discussions ensue.”
The next Rochester Hills City Council meeting will take place on Monday, April 9. You can watch the meeting live online on council’s YouTube channel titled “Council Meetings – City of Rochester Hills.”