Cigarette-smoking ban on North Lido Beach and in city parks wins final City Commission approval

Board at later date to designate specific areas of parks as smoking locations

With no comments — and with Commissioner Hagen Brody out of the chambers — he returned moments later with a cup of coffee — the rest of the Sarasota City Commission this week voted unanimously to implement cigarette-smoking bans on North Lido Beach and in city parks.

The restrictions will not apply to unfiltered cigars.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, had pushed for three years for a revision in state law to let local governments restrict smoking on beaches and in parks they own. Finally, on his fourth try, Gruters won success in the legislative session that concluded in March. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill on June 17, and it went into effect on July 1.

The city commissioners initially approved the draft ordinances on Sept. 6. Therefore, as noted in the documents in their Oct. 3 agenda packet, the measures were to take effect immediately upon the second reading, which took place that morning.

However, in response to a Sarasota News Leader question, City Attorney Robert Fournier explained in an Oct. 5 email that he and his staff “are recommending that warnings be given for the first 60 days or so until the existence of the prohibition against smoking on City owned public beaches and City owned public parks is better known and some signage is installed. I am not sure when signage will be up at this point.”

Following that period, any person who violates the ordinances “shall be subject to a penalty as provided in Section 1-11 of the City Code, plus any additional costs imposed by state or local law, including court costs that may be imposed as provided by law,” each city smoking restriction ordinance says.

Section 1-11 of the City Code says the following:

  • “(a) Whenever in this Code or in any other ordinance or resolution of the city or in any rule, regulation or order promulgated by any officer or agency of the city under authority duly vested in him or her or if any act is prohibited or is made or declared to be unlawful or an offense or a misdemeanor, the doing of any act is required or the failure to do any act is declared to be unlawful or an offense or a misdemeanor, where no specific penalty is provided therefor, the violation of any such provision of this Code or any other ordinance or resolution of the city or such rule, regulation or order shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500.00), or imprisonment for a term not exceeding sixty (60) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
  • “(b) Each day any violation of any provision of this Code or of any other ordinance or resolution of the city or such rule, regulation or order shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.
  • “(c) In addition to the penalty, action may be taken by the city to abate any continuing violation.”

As Fournier pointed out during the commission’s first reading of the ordinances, the beach ban will not apply to South Lido, as that is within Sarasota County’s jurisdiction. Only North Lido will be affected.

Fournier also had drafted a resolution that would designate the parking lots at North Lido and in city parks — or areas within those lots — as smoking locations.

During their Sept 6 meeting, the city commissioners requested that the city’s Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection Advisory Board (PREP) review Fournier’s resolution before they made the final decisions on designated smoking areas.

When Commissioner Brody asked Fournier that day why he had provided a resolution to deal with that aspect of the cigarette-smoking prohibition, Fournier explained that a resolution “gives you a lot more flexibility,” as it could be updated easily if future commission majorities agreed to specify additional areas or remove some of them.

Both Brody and Commissioner Liz Alpert agreed, then, that that would be the best approach.

The new city ordinance regarding parks does say, “No person shall smoke cigarettes, filtered cigars, or pipes, or use any other devices to inhale smoke from burning tobacco products within a city owned public park, unless such activity occurs in an area designated for smoking or tobacco use by posted signage.”

In his Oct. 5 email to the News Leader, Fournier noted that the PREP board would be expected to provide a formal report to the City Commission on its recommendation. Then the commissioners “will decide if all or a portion of the parking areas at public parks should be areas where smoking is allowed. I would anticipate that this would be done at one of the meetings in November, but I don’t know which one at this point.”

PREP board makes its recommendation

During their Sept. 15 meeting, the PREP board members voiced concerns about protecting children, especially, in playground areas.

“I think it was just a recognition that there will be smokers who are unable to give it up, and they’re going to need to smoke,” Chair Mary Fuerst said of the commissioners’ Sept. 6 agreement to provide designated smoking areas.

She added, “I had a colleague that died of second-hand smoke [effects]. He never smoked!” Yet, she stressed, he ended up with a diagnosis of lung cancer.

PREP board member Ted Wilson said, “I would go for this if they designated areas … that were away from main entrances.”

Members suggested that only specific sections of city parks with parking lots be established as smoking areas.

“It’s the kids we’re trying to protect,” Wilson emphasized. “They’re kind of trapped,” he added, if they are engaged in activities and people nearby are smoking.

“Personally, I don’t like the idea of smoking in the parking lot,” Vice Chair Leo Fitzgerald told his colleagues. “I think it has to be a very confined area.”

Fuerst explained that 27 city parks have off-street parking. “We do also have about 29 that do not have any parking areas,” she pointed out. Some of those are “so tiny,” she noted.

In the latter cases, she continued, people would be able to smoke on the sidewalks, but the ordinance would prevent them from walking through the park, smoking cigarettes.

Fuerst ended up passing the gavel to Fitzgerald to make the motion that said the PREP board recommended that the City Commission designate certain portions of parking lots of city parks as smoking areas. It passed on a 5-1 vote, with Fitzgerald opposing it.

Sue Martin, general manager of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, pointed out that the signage that city staff would erect would be very specific about the areas where smoking would be allowed.

Wilson responded that signage does not prevent people from violating city ordinances, adding that he has observed that fact through the 35 years he has been a city resident.

Unless officers of the Sarasota Police Department enforce the no-smoking restrictions, Wilson continued, nothing will change. Still, he said, if the PREP board members approved an initial recommendation for the city commissioners, the latter could “put teeth into it” after it had been effect for a while.

The only PREP board member absent from the meeting was Deanna Dowdle. Thus, Jerry Wells, Wilson, Deborah A. Pasteur and Jimmy Glover ended up voting “Yes,” along with Fuerst.

1 thought on “Cigarette-smoking ban on North Lido Beach and in city parks wins final City Commission approval”

  1. What a joke. What they really needed was to enforce LITTERING laws. If they allow Cigars….and not cigarettes….they aren’t against smoking….just littering!

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