The York County Council took a second step Tuesday night toward lifting the countywide smoking ban for private clubs.
In council chambers in York, the council moved swiftly to approve the amendment's second reading in a 5-2 vote, but only after hearing concerns raised from the those in attendance on whether smoking is a public health issue or a matter of personal freedom.
The council heard from four people who spoke in support of the amendment and four who oppose it.
Only County Council Chairman Buddy Motz and Vice Chairman Joe Cox voted to keep the ban intact, arguing that the ban fulfills its original intent to protect public health.
Among those sharing that opinion was Dr. Dave Keely, who discussed the dangers of second-hand smoke. At one point, Keely asked the crowd if they believed people should have the right to breathe clean air in public, a question which prompted muttered replies that private clubs aren't public.
Among amendment supporters were Steve Lipe and Jules Raxter. Raxter, of the Extended Biker Family Events, often uses Lipe's private club, Ponderosa, to put on benefits. The events are attended heavily by people who enjoy riding motorcycles and like to give to their communities, Lipe and Raxter said.
They say in the past they've raised thousands of dollars for people in need in the community, but most of their attendees are smokers and attendance has been poor since the smoking ban went into effect.
For now, the public will have to wait to see if the definition of "private club" can be made more specific.
"I won't be approving (the amendment) on the third reading unless the verbiage is there," said Councilman Tom Smith.
Councilman Roy Blake agreed.
The amendment before the council proposes to exempt establishments that meet a broad definition of "private club" which several council members feel could create a loophole making it easy to gain private club status.
"The way we have it now, it's wide open ... anyone can be a private club," said Blake, who said the council should look to the state for guidance on how to define private club.
Councilman Chad Williams agreed that the language needs to be changed, and Councilman Paul Lindemann, who has led the push for the amendment, said that the council should work with county staff to revise the amendment to address the council's concerns.
"We will have a clear definition or we will defer (the final reading) until we do," Lindemann said.
County Manager Jim Baker has said that creating an effective exemption is a difficult task - it was something that was considered when the original ordinance was passed.
As written, the amendment would lift the ban for organizations that meet a new definition of "private club," which includes nonprofits such as the VFW and American Legion as well as for-profits that meet certain requirements. Those requirements include collecting dues, catering to members only who are at least 21 years old, creating a governing body with bylaws, posting signs, and having members and employees acknowledge the dangers of tobacco smoke.
The next opportunity for the council to vote on the amendment will be at its Sept. 20 meeting.