By Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Madison Grey for (CNT) City News and Talk #atlanta-ga
It is now illegal for many Doraville residents to smoke a cigarette or vape on their apartment’s balcony or porch.
The city passed an ordinance Monday night that prohibits smoking within 20 feet of an entrance to several public places and residential common areas, including apartments, condominiums and townhomes. Violators can face a fine between $50 and $100.
During Monday’s meeting, a few residents brought up complaints that the new law is an overreach by the city, preventing people from smoking and vaping on property they rent. Councilwoman Stephe Koontz, who sponsored the legislation, said the rights of smokers can not supersede that of everyone else.
“I think what people are missing is that you have a right to breathe clean air wherever you live,” she said. “It’s not fair that if you are living in an apartment and want to sit out on your back patio, you’re forced to go inside your apartment if your neighbors start smoking cigars next door. It goes both ways.”
Doraville’s ordinance follows in the footsteps of many other metro Atlanta cities that have increased anti-smoking efforts. At the beginning of this year, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport closed its smoking rooms to comply with a new indoor smoking law, and cities including Alpharetta, Chamblee and Smyrna also recently passed more restrictive smoking laws.
Doraville’s ordinance, which went into effect as soon as it passed, prohibits smoking near outdoor seating at restaurants, multi-unit residential properties, places of employment and outdoor recreational public places. The law applies to smoking tobacco and marijuana as well as e-cigarette devices.
Smoking will be allowed in parking lots at these locations as long as the person is more than 20 feet from a door, window or ventilation system. Business owners can choose to place a “No smoking” sign to prohibit smoking in parking lots that they own, according to the ordinance. Koontz added that landlords and business owners are encouraged — but not required — to put up signage to promote compliance.
“It even specifically says that in the ordinance that a property owner is not responsible for what people are doing on their property,” she said. “It is the people who are smoking that get fined.”
Seth Daniels, a representative for the Atlanta Apartment Association, voiced his opposition to the legislation during the meeting, saying the law would encourage renters to smoke indoors. He added that indoor smoking increases the cleaning costs for apartment managers.
“We still think there will be consequences for incentivizing residents to smoke inside of their home instead of outside,” he said. “If you’re going to (smoke), we’d prefer they do it outside.”
Koontz said the issue of increased cleaning costs could be addressed with security deposits and lease agreements. She added that she didn’t think it was to much to ask for residents to go 20 feet away from their apartment to have a smoke.
Councilwoman Rebekah Cohen Morris said Daniels brought up some good points, and she was concerned that property owners would get additional rights that renters would be denied.
“People at their own homes can go have a cigarette on their back porch, but if you’re a renter at an apartment, you can’t,” Morris said. “I would prefer having an exception for multi-family housing, but I’m probably outnumbered.”
She abstained from the vote, which otherwise passed unanimously.
Police Chief Chuck Atkinson said there will be a grace period where officers will hand out warnings instead of fines. Violators can be fined $50 for first offense, $75 for their second offense and $100 for any subsequent violations.