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Smokers could become scourge of downtown sidewalks

Downtown Waynesville could feel the not-so-pleasant trickle-down effects if a proposed smoking ban on Haywood County property goes through.

The county ban would evict smokers from the grounds of the justice center and historic courthouse. Striking out in search of safe harbor, they would no doubt make their way to town sidewalks to light up.

“It is a concern,” said Richard Miller, president of the Downtown Waynesville Association and long-time downtown business owner. “They will be pushed onto the town of Waynesville, and then the town will have to decide what to do.”

Especially on heavy court days, people pour out the revolving doors of the justice center during recesses to smoke.

If the county creates a “no-smoking island” on the justice center campus, the town sidewalks would essentially become the new smoking zone, Miller said. 

Piles of cigarette butts littering the ground around the justice center are one gripe that led to the ban. But that problem would simply land on town sidewalks if smoking is banned on county property.

Another issue is that heated disputes in the courtroom — from child custody battles to domestic violence restraining orders — have the potential to spill outside and spark disputes during smoke breaks. But if pushed down the street, they would be out of sight of deputies manning the justice center lobby.

Those who wander from the justice center in search of a smoking respite might take up residence at the town pocket park across the street from the historic courthouse — a courtyard of sorts with sculptures and seating at the corner of Main and Depot streets. 

That would be undesirable to Attorney Jeff Norris, whose law firm is right next door to the mini-park. Norris said the mini-park gets a lot of enjoyment, from downtown employees taking a lunch break to tourist families regrouping after shopping Main Street.

“It is fantastic,” Norris said. “It has been very positive. I would prefer for that not to become a de facto smoking area.”

Many in the downtown community are hoping the county will include a provision for a designated smoking area on the justice center grounds.

“The county may be advised to chat with the town and coordinate some effort,” Norris said. “Maybe an alternative would be they could come up with a designated smoking area.”

Miller suggested cordoning off a smoking area in the parking deck. It is a short walk — about 70 feet, all of it covered — from the front door of the justice center entrance, yet is out of sight.

Wells Greeley, the owner of Wells Funeral Home across the street from the justice center, said he philosophically supports the idea of a smoking ban.

“From a health aspect, it is the absolutely worst thing anyone can ever do,” said Greeley, also a town alderman.

But practically speaking, a full ban may be unrealistic, he said.

“Every person who lives in this county at some time or another has an interaction with the courthouse,” Greely said. “Every airport I’ve been in has a designated smoking area of some sort.”



Pipe up on Haywood’s proposed smoking ban

A public hearing on a proposed smoking and tobacco ban for Haywood County property will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 16, at the historic courthouse in Waynesville. 

A piecemeal smoking ban is already in effect for some county sites: the Allens Creek park, the Health and Human Services building and the public libraries, for example.

The new no-tobacco policy would encompass all county property, including the entire grounds of county office buildings, from one edge of the property to the other. There’s no stipulation for a designated smoking area, so county employees would have to completely leave the premises to smoke during the workday.

The big kicker is the historic courthouse and justice center campus in downtown Waynesville — more than a hundred employees work in the two buildings, and several hundred people visit each week to pay taxes, file deeds, pay traffic tickets, report for jury duty and the like.

The ban would apply to more than smoking. Chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes, vaporizers and pipes would also be banned.

The ban would apply to county vehicles, as well.

The penalty for violating the ordinance would be a $25 citation, but carries no other consequences, not even court costs. Employees who violate the ordinance are subject to disciplinary action. 

County Manager Ira Dove said there were no designated smoking areas outlined in the ordinance, but commissioners will consider any public comment presented at the public hearing.

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