Scarborough considers beach smoking ban, changes to Black Point zoning

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SCARBOROUGH — A provision that would ban smoking and any other use of tobacco on public beaches received preliminary approval Wednesday.

The Town Council voted 4-1 on the first reading. Councilor Ronald Ahlquist, who is a park ranger at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, was opposed to the amendment even though he said he was in favor of banning smoking on the beaches.

“My fear is how do you enforce it? Are you going to call a patrol officer off the road?” Ahlquist said. “If we’re just writing a feel-good ordinance … I don’t think that’s practical.”

The ordinance amendment – which would ban use of all tobacco products, including snuff,  dip and chewing tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and pipes, within 25 feet of town beaches except in designated smoking areas – comes after several citizens asked the ordinance committee to consider a ban to help deal with exposure to second-hand smoke and cigarette butts left on beaches.

Smoking is already banned at all Maine state parks, including Scarborough Beach. Ahlquist said park rangers hand out cards to offenders on state beaches, letting them know about the law, which went into effect in 2009, but that it has been a process to educate the public.

“I think we’ll get there and be smoke free,” Ahlquist said of the state parks, “but we have the back up, the people to do that.”

While others agreed that there were enforcement issues, several councilors indicated a desire to hear from the public.

“I’m not a proponent of passing ordinances we can’t enforce, but eventually, this will be looked on as if someone was drinking alcohol on the beach,” Councilor Michael Wood said. 

Tina Pettingill, a resident and executive director of the Maine Public Health Association, spoke in favor of the ordinance amendment, although she said she opposes a provision that would create designated smoking areas at the beaches.

“Even brief exposure can cause harm,” Pettingill said. “The data really shows you have to be 25 feet away to avoid the effects of second-hand smoke.”

A public hearing on the ordinance change was scheduled for the council’s next meeting on March 16.

The council also unanimously approved the first reading of a zoning change to a section of the Black Point Road neighborhood near St. Maximilian Kolbe Church.

The change would allow for mixed-use buildings to encourage more village-like development of the area. In addition to the limitations of the TVC3 zone, including prohibitions on drive-through restaurants and large non-residential buildings, the council approved area-specific limitations.

After hearing from citizens during a public meeting last month, which was scheduled at the request of several residents, town staff rewrote the ordinance to ban health clubs, reduce the maximum building height from 45 feet to 35 feet, include density standards for an area without access to the town sewer, and to relax requirements for front-yard residential setbacks.

“We wanted to be sure new development was in scale with what is currently there,” Planning Director Dan Bacon said.

The change was sent to the Planning Board to review and will return to the council for a second reading, public hearing and approval.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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