- September 13, 2022
The Windermere Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting smoking and the use of vapor-generated electronic devices within the boundaries of town-owned public parks at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The ordinance amends Chapter 22 of the town’s Code of Ordinances entitled “Parks and Recreation” to add the new section titled “22-47.”
Senate Bill 224 and House Bill 105 were filed in the Florida Legislature for the 2022 Legislative Session to allow municipalities to restrict smoking and the use of vapor-generating electronic devices within the boundaries of public beaches and public parks within their jurisdiction, which was then presented to the governor, approved June 24 and signed into law.
According to a staff analysis published for House Bill 105, an estimated 15.5% of the adults in Florida were tobacco smokers, in 2021. The bill references various studies from United Health Foundation, America’s Health Rankings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others on the impact tobacco-smoking has on the health of citizens.
In addition, studies concluded tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and up to 69 that are known to cause cancer.
Moreover, more than 480,000 deaths annually in the United States are caused by cigarette smoking and an estimated 41,000 deaths annually are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.
Council Member Molly Rose inquired on the penalties if someone were to smoke or vape in the town parks if the ordinance was passed.
The ordinance will authorize the police department to issue a citation, trespass individuals and “give us the ability to stop them,” Police Chief David Ogden said.
Mayor Jim O’Brien said the ordinance is part of a desire to make the town parks as safe and controlled as possible.
Ogden said the police department will be announcing a vaping and smoking presentation to educate the residents in the coming weeks.
The ordinance was passed unanimously, with the absence of council members Mandy David and Andy Williams.
Several residents spoke during public comment on the July approved temporary traffic-calming program to alleviate traffic concerns along Oakdale Street.
The items in the program included closing off a portion of East Seventh Avenue just east of The Art Room; closing off East Eighth Avenue; creating left-turn-only signage and a possible diversion barrier at East Ninth Avenue and Oakdale Street heading north and south; and closing off East 12th Avenue and Chase Road.
The approved measures only included the use of a diverter, with no road closures. It also authorized flexibility for Town Manager Robert Smith to implement the program, provided for a re-evaluation period after three and six months, and required an ordinance for permanent traffic-calming measures.
Resident David Sharp thanked the council for the diverter.
“It has solved the issue,” he said. “I’ve lived in that house since 1989 and the difference today … it hasn’t been this good for at least 20 years. I mean it’s quiet, it’s safe and the people are staying on the main road where I think they need to be.”
He said he hopes the temporary measure becomes permanent, although he mentioned room for improvement in terms of signage and golf cart access.
Resident Stephen Lewis spoke on the importance of pedestrian, bike and golf cart access to the other side of Oakdale Street.
“The diverter currently, as it is currently put there, does not allow for golf cart access,” he said. “I would like to see one of the posts removed in the diverter pattern. … Since the traffic engineer never recommended the diverter, I don’t think that we need the traffic engineer’s approval to remove one of the posts to access both sides of Oakdale.”
Resident Brandi Haines agreed with Lewis. She has seen many cars drive around or over the diverters by her home.
“If you guys were going to open it, my recommendation based on all the things we’ve witnessed … is that you put the opening very close to the stop sign — whatever the absolute minimum is you can get away with for the golf carts to go through,” she said. “I think the fact that it’s an actual stop sign and a metal pole is going to prevent cars from going through versus an opening on any other location on that diverter.”