Cecilia Chan – Jun. 6, 2011 09:06 AM
The Arizona Republic
Glendale wants businesses to provide designated smoking areas for their employees who light up.
The Planning Commission voted 6-0 Thursday to recommend that the City Council approve the zoning ordinance amendment.
New development larger than 7,500 square feet – roughly half the size of a pharmacy – or buildings undergoing extensive remodeling would need to show the location of a smoking area during the design review process.
Senior planner Thomas Ritz said the amendment was spurred by Mayor Elaine Scruggs and City Council members who voiced concerns last year. Residents had complained of cigarette butts and ashes left in their neighborhoods by employees at two business campuses that did not have designated smoking areas.
Voters in 2006 approved the Smoke-Free Arizona Act, which banned smoking in most enclosed public places, including restaurants, bars, office buildings and health-care facilities. The state law doesn’t require employers to provide smoking areas.
“This will keep smokers on the property and out of neighborhoods,” Ritz said.
Vice Mayor Steve Frate told The Republic the recommended requirement is a “step in the right direction.”
“The next step is for owners of buildings already built to adequately address concerns of both smokers and non-smokers,” Frate said.
Two major businesses in Frate’s council district generated the neighborhood complaints of employee litter and cigarette smoke wafting through open windows or doors. AAA Regional Center has since created a smoking area for its employees at the edge of its property.
Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, however, has remained steadfast in its commitment to ban smoking throughout its campus, including parking areas. The ban includes any Banner-owned medical office building and clinic.
“We feel strongly that smoking is not conducive to good health and it would be hypocritical for us to allow that,” hospital spokesman Jeff Nelson said.
Nelson said the hospital used to have designated smoking areas near its entrances but in January 2010 opted for a campuswide ban.
Nelson said Banner has addressed neighborhood complaints by hiring a motorized street sweeper to clean both sides of Eugie Avenue once a week and sending hospital janitors every weekday to the street to pick up cigarette butts.
He said the hospital also has instructed employees, patients and visitors not to stand on Eugie Avenue to smoke and has stepped up surveillance to identify employees who do smoke on that roadway.
“It does seem to be a trend for many organizations to go totally smoke-free, no designated smoking area,” said Laurie Thomas of the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease.
Banner is the only facility Thomas has heard of that had an issue with employees wandering off into neighborhoods to smoke.
The most common complaints the state receives include fumes from a smoke shop seeping into a neighboring business because of a shared ventilation system, businesses not posting “no smoking” signs at their entrances and employees who smoke inside the workplace, Thomas said.
Thomas said a couple of apartment complexes in Glendale have opted to go smoke-free despite being exempt from the state law.
The 75-unit Manistee Manor Apartment Homes last year banned smoking from its property, she said. And, the 150-unit Waymark Gardens this month began allowing smoking only in a designated outside area. Both are senior-only residences and subsidized by HUD.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a recommendation two years ago that all HUD-funded properties go smoke-free or partially smoke-free.
Thomas said multihousing complexes are responding for several reasons, including complaints from tenants and savings. It’s much less expensive to repair and clean a smoke-free apartment than one where smoking is allowed.