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China Grove quietly passes smoking ban in parks

CHINA GROVE — With no discussion, the Town Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a ban on smoking in all parks within the municipal limits.

No members of the public spoke during public comment about the ban. Town Council members didn’t address it, either, before passing the ban as part of the consent agenda — used for items without opposition.

The ban was last discussed in 2014, when the council questioned whether it could actually be enforced. The ban applies to all lighted tobacco products. Smoking would be banned in “any local government-owned building or park owned, leased, occupied, or operated by the Town of China Grove.”

Parks owned by the Town of China Grove includes Cannon Park — the little league field — near Liberty and Harris streets, Hannah Park, Village Grove Park on Walnut and First streets, Westhaven Park on Mitchell Avenue and Westside Park on Harry Street. The ban would also apply to the China Grove Community Building on South Myrtle Avenue.

Visitors and employees would both be subject to the ban.

China Grove’s ban doesn’t appear to apply to vapes or E-cigarettes, which vaporize flavored liquid rather than produce smoke.

A violation of the ban would come with a fine of $50 or less.

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

In other business from Tuesday’s meeting:

• Interim Fire Chief Mike Zimmerman announced the town had placed an order to purchase a new fire truck for about $573,000.

Zimmerman expressed confidence about the quality of the end product. The truck, Zimmerman said, would be delivered to China Grove in about a year.

The town is purchasing a new truck because one of its current vehicles is overweight and has been declared unsafe by Zimmerman. China Grove’s current tanker truck violates several safety standards. Some of the violations stem from initial construction, he said.

During a budget work session before the 2016 fiscal year began, Zimmerman estimated the truck could cost up to $675,000, making the purchase price about $100,000 lower than his top-end estimate.

He said the Town of China Grove wouldn’t need to pay for the vehicle until it arrives.

• China Grove revisited a zoning decision related to a staffing company opening an office in downtown.

Previously, the town decided not to take action on a requested rezoning for 118 W. Centerview St. from residential to a classification that would suit the staffing business. Adjacent pieces of property were added to the request to make zoning consistent with actual property use.

The town board unanimously approved the rezoning after considering it for the second month in a row. Property owner Bobby Power spoke against the proposed rezoning and said he never planned to use the adjacent property as a business.

In a memo delivered to the town board on Tuesday, Planner Franklin Gover said the rezoning wouldn’t affect property values. Gover said he based his assessment on conversations with staff in the Rowan County Tax Assessor’s office.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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