Gulfport City Council members are moving forward with lifting a smoking ban on the beach. During a first reading Tuesday, all five members voted to remove the ban from the beach and allow designated smoking areas at athletic fields and facilities as well as children's outdoor play areas.
The decision to remove the ban on the beach comes just one month after a judge in Sarasota ruled the City cannot enforce outdoor smoking restrictions.
"A judge has ruled it's unconstitutional," Gulfport City Attorney Andrew Salzman said.
The City is currently facing a lawsuit filed by St. Petersburg Attorney Andy Strickland, and the new ordinance is a compromise between the city and Mr. Strickland that would end the pending litigation.
“There’s been no opinions out there, so that has a lot to do with the compromise . . . we never had any precedent before, now we have a court decision,” Salzman said.
Salzman and Strickland worked together on the new ordinance and say if it is passed during second reading on Tuesday, Feb 5, at 7 p.m., then the lawsuit will be dropped.
Strickland claims the ban on the beach is unconstitutional and filed the lawsuit in June 2012, after knowingly lighting up against the rules and receiving a ticket for smoking on the beach.
The following is the memo attached to Ordinance 2013-01 online:
"The City of Gulfport is currently involved in litigation concerning the constitutionality of Section 17-31. A recent Sarasota county court decision has clarified some of the issues involved in the City's litigation. The judge has ruled that the City of Sarasota cannot enforce smoking restrictions on outdoor public properties that this authority is provided to the State of Florida. The City of Gulfport's Ordinance is based fundamentally on the City of Sarasota's Ordinance."
The proposed ordinance provides the following:
- Removes reference to public beach area
- The City will provide designated smoking areas at athletic fields/facilities and children's outdoor play areas. The designated areas must provide for visual access to the athletic fields, facilities and children's outdoor play areas.