The city is moving ahead with proposed laws that would require most property owners to keep their grass cut and open the door to smoking bans on city streets and sidewalks.
The controversial measures are both slated for public hearings before the city’s Ordinance Committee beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the meeting room at City Hall.
“This would be the opportunity for peole to give their views,” said Dale Clift, the city attorney, in order to give committee members information to mull over as they try to figure what, if anything, to do with the measures.
The tall grass proposal would require property owners keep grass no higher than 8 inches within 25 feet of a city street or a side yard, which would effectively require most people to cut their grass except perhaps in the back of a home lot.
The other law that the three-member ordinance panel is eyeing would allow property owners to request the city establish “tobacco-free zones” on adjoining public streets and sidewalks.
Pushing for the change is Bristol Hospital, which would like to make it illegal to smoke on Newell Road outside the hospital.
As the draft law is currently written, the city’s hearings and assessments panel would field requests for tobacco-free zones. If it approves, city councilors would have the final say.
Because of the bureaucratic steps required, it’s unlikely that many homeowners or non-institutional property owners would try to win bans for public land next door. But it’s possible that parks or schools might follow the hospital’s lead in a bid to keep smoking away.
Clift said the smoking ban that’s on the table includes language to ensure that Bristol doesn’t impose prohibitions in areas that state law specifically allows smoking, such as outside some restaurants.
He said that merely asking for a smoking ban might not be convincing to the city’s hearing panel, should the ordinance win approval.
“People will have to make a case” that convinces it, he said, and also sways the City Council if the hearings panel recommends the ban.
There doesn’t appear to be much opposition to letting the hospital secure a tobacco-free designation for the walkways and streets beside it, since Mayor Art Ward and several city councilors have already said they like the idea.
It isn’t clear if the hearing Wednesday will bring out opponents to either the smoking ban proposal or the effort to keep grass shorter.
The city used to have a provision against tall grass, but in the course of rewriting its codes in recent years, the provision accidentally got erased from the statute book.
State law already prohibits smoking in restaurants and bars in Connecticut as well as public buildings.
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