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Carolina Beach Council Wants State To Permit Beach-Smoking Ban

The Carolina Beach Town Council voted in August to adopt a beachfront smoking ban pending permission from the North Carolina General Assembly. At their September 11,  meeting the Council voted to send a letter to the State requesting that authority.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council voted to send a letter to the North Carolina General Assembly requesting permission to ban smoking on the beachfront within Town limits at their September 11, meeting.
The Council voted last month to adopt an ordinance spelling out a smoking ban on the beachfront with the caveat that it would not be enforced until the State granted the Town permission through legislation.
State law permits a city to adopt an ordinance to regulate the illegal disposal of solid waste, including littering on public and private property.
Legislation adopted by the State Legislature in 2010 permits Town's to enact a smoking ban in certain areas. One is on "local government grounds. The Council was informed by their Town Attorney earlier this summer the Town originally believed they had ownership of a large portion of the beach, but due to a state law that is not the case. Beaches that receive public funds for renourishment projects pumping sand on to the beach do not have ownership. The title to those beaches vests with, or belongs to, the State of North Carolina.
Since the 2010 State Law regulating bans on smoking by local governments is specific in its language, Town Attorney Lawrence Cragie explained, "Absent enabling legislation from the general assembly that gives the Town of Carolina Beach the authority to prohibit or regulate smoking on the public beach, the Town cannot do so."
On September 11, Town Manager Tim Owens said in addition to requesting state authority, there was direction from Council in August to come up with ways to address smoking on the beach and litter.
Owens said, "I really need some direction on what you want" and said he heard Council wanted signs about litter and, "I also heard you wanted to be more proactive on discouraging smoking."
Owens said littering is illegal and cigarette butts are litter. He said, "In order to get a ticket, you have to be witnessed by an officer for the most part so it's very hard to do that with a cigarette butt." He said signs could be placed at beach access areas alerting the public to litter law enforcement.
Owens said the Town uses a mechanical beach-rake twice a year per state permit and, "That doesn't work too well on cigarette butts. It's works for larger debris" and they are required to put shells and seaweed back on the beach. He said the Town previously got a grant to provide foil-packets for smokers to dispose of their butts but those can cost as much as $1.50 each.
Owens said they are working on a cigarette disposal canister that can be placed on the beach. A can on a wooden post.  
Currently it's a $50 fine for littering.
Mayor Ray Rothrock asked if the Town could increase that fine. Owens said he would have to research how much a fine can be set at.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "I'm more inclined to focus on the littering aspect rather than telling people what they should or should not be doing as a lifestyle. I am a proponent of making it by ordinance a smoke free beach but I don't really want to be out there telling people what they should or shouldn't do."
He favors visible signs telling people to pick up their butts and said one business in Wrightsville Beach put out cans on sticks that people can take on the beach, dispose properly and return at the end of their visit.
Councilman Bob Lewis said right now signs are small and should be larger; more visible. Owens asked if Council wanted to follow up with asking legislators for permission to enact the smoking ban.
Shuttleworth said he's had personal conversations with legislators and there are varying opinions on how to address the issue. He said another County chose a different route and went through their County Health Department to enact a countywide ban in public areas.
Mayor Ray Rothrock said he didn't support the ban and would not author or sign such a letter to the state.
Owens said sending the letter and visiting legislators will "get the ball rolling."
Councilman Lonnie Lashley said the Town should focus on their request and not combine forces with other Towns.
Shuttleworth said some county and state leaders have indicated support if it's a countywide or statewide issue. He said, "There are some that said they would prefer to see it go back to the public for a vote."
Rothrock said with elections around the corner there will be many new faces in the legislature. The Council voted four to one to ask for legislation allowing the Town to enact a smoking ban on the beach whether it's for Carolina Beach alone or all coastal counties.
Council member Sarah Friede said she would draft the letter. Shuttleworth said as Mayor Pro-tem, he would sign the letter. Mayor Rothrock voted no.
Under the ban people smoking on the beach would be subject to a fine of $50 with no criminal penalty.