NORCROSS -- City council members voted unanimously Monday to repeal an unpopular ordinance that banned tobacco use in Norcross. The ordinance, originally proposed by councilman Ross Kaul as the result of resident complaints about secondhand smoke, was passed in May of this year. Once it became law, however, residents complained of over-reaching government and the loss of personal choice and civil liberties.
"This went from being a 'quality of life' issue to an 'intrusion by government' issue," said Kaul, who insisted Monday that the intent of the ordinance was to protect residents' rights, not infringe upon them.
Residents who spoke on the matter Monday disagreed, asking Mayor Bucky Johnson and council members to repeal the ordinance and then embark on a public education campaign about secondhand (outdoor) smoke.
Sara Levy, a self-proclaimed "reformed smoker," told city leaders that even though she chooses not to smoke, she believes that people should have a choice as to whether they do. Levy added that designated smoking areas should be clearly marked for outdoor events such as concerts.
Former Norcross council member Keith Shewbert echoed Levy's concerns, adding that it becomes a class issue affecting the city's poorer residents. Shewbert made the point, too, that the tobacco-free ordinance adversely impacts Norcross businesses.
"We have to make it easy to do business here," he said. "I think this was a solution in search of a problem."
Council members weighed in on the issue Monday also, agreeing that although residents have had months to provide input on the ordinance, a law this sweeping and cutting edge was enacted too quickly without all the pertinent facts and resident feedback.
"I think the message is clear. We went too far," councilman Charlie Riehm said.
In the coming months, residents can expect to see city leaders further researching the foundation for a more appropriate tobacco ordinance in Norcross.
Property rezoned for tree service company
The property located at 484 North Norcross Tucker Road was rezoned Monday in order to accommodate a tree service business. Conditions were attached to the rezoning that disallow residential use of the house, in response to the applicant's request to house security personnel 24 hours a day on the property.
Another condition states that mulch cannot be stored on the premises, as the decaying of shredded bark produces a foul odor.
Neighboring residents stated publicly Monday that they want assurance that city codes will be enforced with respect to parking and residential use of the commercial property.