Playground no-smoking: Town follows state lead

While Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen just voted on first reading Thursday, Nov. 12, to pass an ordinance prohibiting smoking at children’s playgrounds in Farragut, the measure has been a long time coming according to Town officials.

“It has been a consistent complaint that we get from park users for many years — that others are smoking around spectators, on playgrounds and even on/near the splashpad,” Sue Stuhl, Town Parks and Recreation director, said in an interview Friday, Nov. 13. “The problem has been that state law has prohibited local jurisdictions from enacting a no-smoking ordinance for their parks, (although) several groups have been working on getting state law changed over the years including Park and Rec departments and Smoke Free Knoxville.”

Those lobbying efforts were finally successful in March when Gov. Bill Lee signed Public Chapter 529 Into law, which amended Tennessee Code and finally authorized local governments to “prohibit smoking on the grounds of indoor and outdoor facilities intended for recreation by children and owned by the local government,” according to Town of Farragut documentation provided to BOMA.

According to Trevor Hobbs, assistant to the Town Administrator, Knoxville City Council already has passed a similar measure.

The Knox County Commission was to discuss the same issue this past Monday, Nov. 16, during its regular meeting.

“This is long overdue,” Farragut Mayor Ron Williams said during the discussion portion of the ordinance vote, which ultimately was unanimously approved. “I also want to thank the staff for bringing this item to us.”

“We are thrilled that this ordinance was passed on the first reading and look forward to this ordinance being implemented,” Stuhl said. “We know that second-hand smoke is a real issue and how important it is to protect our park users and visitors.”

While others on the Board asked if this would allow smoking to be prohibited outright in other places in Town parks, Stuhl said for now, the only place municipalities can prevent it is in areas primarily used by children.

“While we would love to include the whole of our parks, we had to take what we could get,” she told the Board.

Alderman Drew Burnette asked why vaping is not included in the measure.

“I think that vaping can be as obtrusive as smoking itself,” he added.

“I believe vaping will probably come up for discussion again,” Williams said.

Hobbs said signs will be posted in Town parks when the ordinance is final, following second reading.

“We will correlate signage with Knox County with our own brand and ordinance numbers on it,” Stuhl added.

In other business, BOMA:

• voted unanimously on first reading to approve an ordinance to rezone 7 acres at 922 McFee Road from agricultural to open space residential overlay;

• voted on first reading to approve an amendment to the Farragut Municipal Code, concerning the Town’s Grand Opening Special Events Permit, providing different sign-related provisions;

• voted to move the 2021 annual Independence Day Parade to July 3, from July 4, which falls on a Sunday;

• voted to name Vice Mayor Louise Povlin to continue serving as the alderman appointment to the Town Municipal Planning Commission; and

• voted to approve Farragut resident John Hoffmann’s application to serve on the Town’s Board of Zoning Appeals following last month’s resignation of Michael Wilson.