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China Grove may ban smoking in town parks, buildings

During its regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting, the China Grove Town Council is scheduled to ban smoking in all town-owned buildings and parks.

The ban was last discussed in 2014 and appears on Tuesday’s consent agenda — used for items with unanimous agreement. The ban applies to all lighted tobacco products. China Grove’s proposed ban doesn’t appear to apply to vapes or E-cigarettes, which vaporize flavored liquid rather than produce smoke.

During a February 2014 meeting, some town council members said enforcing a ban in parks or ball fields would be difficult. In the 2014 meeting, Mayor Don Bringle called the ordinance “confrontational.” Mayor Pro Tem Lee Withers, at the time, suggested a designated smoking area.

Officially, the town’s proposed ordinance would apply to “any local government-owned building or park owned, leased, occupied, or operated by the Town of China Grove.”

China Grove’s ordinance states the town would sanction employees who violate the ordinance and fine other violatiors a maximum of $50. A violation would have no other penalties besides the fine.

The fine would specifically apply to people who smoke in nonsmoking areas despite “notice by the person in charge of the building or area,” according to the ordinance. Signs would be placed at entrances to buildings and parks noting the smoking ban.

A number of municipalities in Rowan County have considered an identical ban recently, including Granite Quarry, Salisbury and Rockwell. In a 2010 survey, 73 percent of Rowan County residents said they want smoke-free playgrounds and 79 percent said they do not smoke.

China Grove’s proposed ban relies upon a 2009 state law that allows local governments to adopt ordinances that “are more restrictive than state law and apply in local government buildings, on local government grounds, in local vehicles, or public places.”

The town’s proposed ordinance cites medical research stating “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

In other business from Tuesday’s agenda:

• The China Grove Town board is scheduled to reconsider a rezoning request that failed during its last meeting because of a lack of action.

In October, the board considered whether to rezone a piece of property at 118 W. Centerview St. to suit a staffing company. Adjacent pieces of property were added to the request to make zoning consistent with actual property use. One piece of adjacent property added to the request, however, is being used as a residence but would’ve been rezoned to a business classification.

Property owner Bobby Power spoke against the proposed rezoning and said he never planned to use the adjacent property as a business.

The town board, when considering the rezoning request, didn’t explicitly deny the rezoning, but it failed because of a lack of action. Bringle asked whether a board member wanted to offer a statement of consistency — required for a rezoning — and no one responded.

The China Grove Planning Board had previously approved the rezoning by a 3-2 count during its August meeting. At the time, planning board members focused their attention on how parking might be affected with the staffing company’s request.

China Grove’s town board members, instead, focused their attention on Power’s property.

• The town board will pick Dan Peters as its nominee to sit on the Rowan County Economic Development Commission Board.

• The town board will adopt a resolution to authorize participation in the state health plan.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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