Decatur will consider banning electronic cigarettes in parks, booting reforms

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt May 16, 2016
A female model demonstrating use of an electronic cigarette. Photo by Michael Dorausch, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

A female model demonstrating use of an electronic cigarette. Photo by Michael Dorausch, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

The Decatur City Commission is considering updates to the city’s clean air ordinance that would ban electronic cigarettes in public parks.

There’s also an item on the agenda that’s intended to rein in some of the aggressive booting of people who illegally park in private lots.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at City Hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public. There will be an opportunity for public comment before the commission votes on either measure.

Under the updated ordinance, the definition of smoking would be expanded to include, “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, e-cigarette, oral smoking device, or pipe containing any weed, plant, nicotine based liquid or other combustible substance in any manner or in any form.”

The city’s current definition of smoking does not include e-cigarettes. It also adds the definition of a public park. A public park would be defined as, “any public park, playground, greenspace, plaza or outdoor recreation area maintained and operated by the City, including but not limited to, all city parks, the MARTA Plaza, the Decatur Cemetery and the Old Courthouse lawn.”

The revised ordinance “closely follow” the DeKalb County clean air ordinance, a memo attached to the City Commission agenda says. To read the full list of proposed changes, click here.

Commissioners will also take up proposed changes to the city’s booting ordinance. The changes would make it easier to identify booting companies patrolling private lots and would cap fees at $75. Currently, people who are booted are paying around $100.

The changes are in response to aggressive enforcement by parking attendants.

Decatur’s City Manager recently called some of the parking enforcement behavior “predatory.”

For instance, there are drivers say they’ve paid to park and have been punished anyway. In another case recounted at a recent City Commission meeting, a driver was booted after they left the property to get cash because the credit card machine wasn’t working.

A Decaturish investigation found that Decatur Police officers called to intervene in booting disputes are busier than ever. Calls to resolve these disputes increased 188 percent from 2014 to 2015, records show.

City Commissioners were considering capping the fees at $40, but the proposed changes were tabled after one of the booting companies objected. Capping the fees at $40 would make the enforcement contracts unprofitable, company representatives said.

Recommended changes include:

– Requiring the name of the booting company be included on signs in parking lots.

– Requiring the name of the owner of the lot to be included on the signs.

– Requiring an ID badge to be worn by operators of mechanical locking devices.

– Requiring that pay stations in parking lots must be in working order.

To see the full list of proposed changes to the booting ordinance, click here.

In other business, the City Commission is considering an agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation for federal money to improve the railroad crossings at Candler and McDonough streets.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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