City council members got an earful from residents about three proposed city laws recently, but that was what they wanted.
The council met for a series of public forums on a proposed smoking ban, revisions to the city's tree ordinance and a new nuisance ordinance. Dozens of residents attended the Oct. 1 meeting and many of them brought up concerns with the proposed laws.
"The public forum was exactly what we needed it to be," Councilman George Sheppard said. "It's good when the council doesn't operate in a vacuum."
Opinions were mixed on the smoking ordinance. As written, it would prohibit smoking in all city-owned buildings, whether the city is the tenant or leasing it to someone else, and in all city-owned vehicles. Some people in the audience wanted the city to take the ban a step further and outlaw smoking in all buildings in the city open to the public; Others wanted that decision left up to business and property owners. Sheppard and Councilman John Dervay both favor expanding the ban to all public places.
"The market has already spoken on that issue," Dervay said. "There are no businesses in Tega Cay that allow smoking now."
Mayor Bob Runde and councilmen Les Conner and Larry Harper have said before they do not support banning smoking in all buildings open to the public, favoring instead leaving the decision up to the property owners.
Criticisms of the other ordinances were more pointed.
"I think there are some sections of this ordinance that are too subjective and need clarification," resident Doug Collins said about the nuisance ordinance. "This starts with an appeal procedure. I didn't see that in this ordinance."
Several residents also asked for a way to appeal decisions rendered by the city horticulturist, Tim Gillette, who is designated as the authority by the tree ordinance. Under the law, Gillette has final say on such matters as whether or not residents can remove trees on their property and what types of trees they can plant.
Dervay said there is an appeal process in the language of the nuisance ordinance and in the revised tree ordinance, but he thinks the appeals go to the wrong body. As written, appeals on the enforcement of either go to the board of zoning appeals. The city's municipal judge is probably a better place for both he said.
"It's not really a BOZA issue," Dervay said. "That's an expensive route. It costs $350 to take a case to BOZA."
Throughout the forum residents cited specific examples of things that would be considered violations of the ordinances being discussed, such as semi cabs parked on lawns, or dead trees that have yet to be removed. They also talked about wanting to remove trees, later found to be diseased, only to be told they can't by the horticulturist.
"These are all fundamental philosophical issues the council needs to deal with," Dervay said.