Board seeks input on ordinance changes

By DeeAnna Haney | Jul 18, 2014

CANTON — The Canton board of aldermen will be discussing possible changes to three town ordinances and they want the community's input.

A request to hold an event in town in August sparked the discussion to change two of the ordinances having to do with street and sidewalk closures and drinking alcohol on the sidewalks during permitted and town approved events.

Former Canton Mayor Pat Smathers is collaborating with Sid's On Main and Haywood County Schools to hold a Fall Sports Kickoff Party at Sid's On Main Aug. 16. The large-scale event will be the first of its kind in the county and will be a celebration of the beginning of the school year and will shine the spotlight on all the different fall sports at Tuscola and Pisgah high schools.

Because it's a first-time event, Smathers came to the board for approval and to discuss what the event will entail. One need will be to close down a portion of Main Street near the restaurant. Another would be to allow attendees 21 and older to drink alcohol on the sidewalks at the event.

In order to approve the requests and any similar ones in the future, the board needed to make amendments to two ordinances — one that says it's illegal to close off the sidewalks in town and another that says it's illegal to drink alcohol on town-owned property.

The first order of business will be to discuss changing the ordinance to allow sidewalk closure for board approved special events.

The change to the alcohol policy will make it OK for an event organizer to serve alcohol to guests on public sidewalks and streets. That would only be allowed to happen if the event organizer has gotten proper permits and permission from the board, Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss stressed.

The ordinance change would not make it legal for anyone to drink in public. There will be stringent rules and regulations to follow and it will only be for special events.

"The staff's primary concern, if the board chooses to go this route, is on creating regulations that will allow this in a safe manner," he said.

Hender-Voss said the idea to change the ordinances may have been sparked by Smathers' request, but they will be good changes to make if the town wants to attract more events and festivals.

"This is another opportunity for Canton to develop a comprehensive special event policy that will help facilitate efficient special event permit review and ensure that we become a welcoming community for special events," he said. "It's all part of the board's strategic goal to spur economic development and try to attract more people to Canton."

Tobacco use

Separately from the first two ordinances, the board is also considering adding a new smoking policies for the public and employees.

"This is a big change for the town. this is small potatoes for many larger towns, but for us, trying to adapt and advance, this is new," Hendler-Voss said of the proposed smoking policies.

The policies will provide guidelines as to where smoking is and is not allowed in town.

The draft smoking ordinance for the general public formalizes the prohibition of smoking in town facilities and restricts smoking on walkways and in doorways on town property. It's also being proposed to restrict smoking in highly used recreational areas such as playgrounds, the pool, ball fields, picnic shelters and more.

"Other municipalities in the county do not regulate smoking in those areas so this is something that we would be taking the lead on," Hendler-Voss said.

Smoking will still be allowed in designated areas under the proposed ordinance.

"So if a customer comes to town hall and pays a water bill and they want to have a cigarette in the doorway, they will not be able to do that. But they will be able to walk 30 feet down to the edge of the parking lot in the designated smoking area and have a cigarette there," he said.

There may also be new policies when it comes to town employees who smoke or use tobacco.

An employee who wants to smoke on break would not be allowed to do so on the sidewalk or doorway in front of town hall, but would also have to go to a designated smoking area.

"The tobacco use policy for employees has all the same restrictions as the policy for the general public, but in addition, we are proposing that we limit the use of smokeless tobacco in certain areas and certain circumstances," Hendler-Voss said.

The proposed policy would prohibit employees from chewing tobacco when they are with a customer, when they are inside town hall or spit tobacco on the ground while on the job.

There will be civil penalties to those who smoke in prohibited areas.

"This is not a punitive policy, so this policy is not a means for the town to make more money. It's just a way to support a healthier environment for our customers and for our employees," he said.

A public hearing pertaining to the consumption of alcohol on public streets and sidewalks and pertaining to public smoking will be held at the next board meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 24.