Lenexa looks to create more consistent smoking restrictions across Civic Center

By Roxie Hammill

Smoking will soon be more restricted on Lenexa’s Civic Center grounds and in the parking garage after Lenexa officials presented a plan to create a more consistent smoking policy for the area Tuesday night. Smoking already is prohibited near building entrances.

The council’s committee of the whole asked staff to write administrative rules to deal with outdoor smoking at the Civic Center, rather than having the council pass a new ordinance. The administrative rules mean signs will be posted and visitors caught smoking can be asked to move to the designated area. But there will be no fine or police involvement. The Civic Center restrictions would not apply to the sidewalks that go around the area.

“We don’t want it to become something we’re going to beat people over the head with, but we’re just want to be able to say these areas are restricted from smoking,” said Parks and Recreation Director Gary Ristow.

The city already has some restrictions on outdoor smoking at the civic center, which includes the new city hall, recreation center and parking garage. A new branch of the county library is also under construction just a few feet away.

The existing restrictions are limited to within 10 or 15 feet of entrances to buildings, playgrounds and other specific places. But the civic center campus is a wide outdoor area between city hall and the rec center. The existing smoking ordinance leaves a patchwork of restricted and non-restricted areas there that will be confusing to visitors, Ristow said.

The new rules would restrict smoking within the “common consumption area,” where alcohol can be consumed outdoors, plus the interior of the garage. Smoking would still be allowed on the perimeter sidewalk, however.

The council also asked for city staff to conduct research on the possibility of expanding restrictions on smoking in city parks. Currently there is a ban on smoking near playgrounds, pools and other parts of the parks. Additional restrictions could prohibit it on trails as well.

The issue was discussed in 2015, and revisited during the Tobacco 21 debate the following year, when current restrictions were written.

Besides promoting a healthy atmosphere in city parks, a smoking ban would help with the expense of cleanup, Ristow said. Picking up cigarette butts is labor intensive and tobacco trash releases toxins that can take years to fully decompose, he said.

Councilmembers were cautious about a wider ban in parks. Councilmember Corey Hunt asked whether provisions could be made to allow some smoking during outdoor events such as the Great Lenexa Barbecue Battle at Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park. Council member Bill Nicks stopped short of a full endorsement of a parks ban. “I think our sense should be that we’re moving toward smoke-free in the parks.”

Mayor Mike Boehm suggested council members and staff get more input from their peer groups before the next discussion. “I would never want to be in the position of defending smoking but by the same token we have smokers and my guess is they’re not in the room tonight. So we don’t hear from them,” he said. “But I’m always sensitive to that.”