2015 | News

City of Rockville Bans Outdoor Smoking at Parks, Town Square and Public Golf Course

Council action goes further than similar county smoking ban, which exempts golfers

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The city-owned plaza at Rockville Town Square

Via Flickr user Dan Reed

The City of Rockville Council on Monday moved to formally ban outdoor smoking at all city parks, a decision that means smoking won’t be allowed at the city’s central civic space and at its public golf course.

The move, made with a 5-0 council vote, puts the city’s policy on outdoor smoking at its properties mostly in line with Montgomery County’s outdoor smoking ban.

But there is at least one difference: While the county outdoor smoking ban exempts those who wish to smoke on county-owned golf courses, the ban in Rockville will apply to golfers playing at the city-owned RedGate Golf Course.

The course on Avery Road is being leased out by the city to Billy Casper Golf, a nationwide golf course management company.

The city already bans smoking inside city buildings and has policies banning smoking outside the Rockville Swim and Fitness Center, within 50 feet of entrances to community centers, at the dog park at Mattie JT Stepanek Park and within 40 feet of city playground equipment.

The council’s move Monday will also ban smoking at the half-acre rectangular plaza the city owns in the middle of Rockville Town Square. That action was opposed by Federal Realty Investment Trust, which developed and owns the property immediately around the square, because it feared the ban would create confusion for diners at outdoor restaurants.

The idea to ban smoking in the plaza came in 2013 from Rockville resident Adam Zimmerman.

Zimmerman emailed Council members about the idea, after seeing smokers in the area near his children. The space is often home to organized community events and in the winter serves as the setting for an outdoor ice rink.

“It eventually just reached the point to where I got to wondering: Is there anything we can do about it? The level of smoking in the plaza was fairly frequent,” Zimmerman told Bethesda Beat.

His email set off two years of discussions about a smoking ban on the plaza and a wider smoking ban at all outdoor city property.

Nearing the end of the current Council term, Council member Tom Moore Monday made a motion to move forward with the broader outdoor smoking ban. Moore is the only one of the four sitting council members who isn’t running for reelection.

“I think this can only help in terms of just letting people know and specifying the rules,” Zimmerman said.

City staff said it should take between two and three months to get signs printed that explain the outdoor smoking ban in city parks. A city staffer estimated it would cost $20,000 to produce the signs for city parks and another $7,500 to produce signs for other city facilities, such as a maintenance yard. Once the signs are placed, the ban will go into effect.

The outdoor smoking ban will also extend to the city’s Civic Center Park, which contains venues that are often rented out for parties and other private events. Smoking outside of the venues is allowed now and will continue to be allowed for people who have already entered contracts to rent out the buildings.

Like the county’s ban, which passed in 2013, enforcement of the city ban will be complaint-driven. County staff said just one $50 citation was issued from July 2014 to June 2015 for violating its outdoor smoking ban.