Dearborn City Council took steps this week toward repealing an ordinance aimed at stopping smokers from lighting up in front of Oakwood Hospital.
The ordinance, approved in January under the offenses chapter of the city code, added hospitals to the list of places in which smokers had to be at least 100 feet away before they could partake. It was enacted after Oakwood—which has its own no-smoking policy on the campus—came to the city asking for help in getting hospital staff and visitors off of Oakwood Boulevard when they chose to smoke.
However, the ordinance had an unintended consequence.
According to residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital, hospital staff and visitors began taking their habit to their doorsteps—literally.
Donna Chaffin, a resident of Venice Street, came before council last Thursday on behalf of her neighborhood. She told council that cigarette butts littered her neighborhood; staff and visitors would sit on the front porches of homes and smoke; ambulance drivers would park their vehicle along the street for a smoke break before returning to the hospital.
“It’s a very bad security issue,” she said on Tuesday. “We’d look out the door and there’s someone standing on the porch.”
"It's Oakwood's problem—not ours," she added.
Oakwood Director of Security Morris Cotton also came before council on Tuesday, explaining that the ordinance—which allows for a $50 fine against violators—came to be in an effort by the hospital to get smokers off of the sidewalks in front of the hospital.
“We’re trying to continue to be good neighbors,” he said, adding that the ordinance has greatly reduced instances of smoking on Oakwood Boulevard.
“We’ve issued over 100 tickets for smoking violators,” Cotton said. “As a result of the tickets being issued, we’ve noticed a major reduction of people smoking on Oakwood.”
But council, which held a first reading of a resolution to redact the ordinance, agreed that the solution for Oakwood was a big problem for residents.
“You’ve done a tremendous job in pushing it off of Oakwood,” Councilman David Bazzy said, adding that it was at the expense of neighborhoods. “These are your visitors and your employees. This problem has manifested itself in the neighborhood and this can’t happen.
“You’re part of the community, and you’re not being good neighbors now.”
Council President Tom Tafelski added that in addition to Chaffin’s public appearance on the issue, council has received numerous complaints about the issue from residents of the area.
“You would not want to live on some of the streets where this is going on,” he said. “It’s gotten out of control."
“It was a good idea when we initially implemented it,” he added, “however the unforeseen consequences and lack of communication is why we’re here now.”
Council agreed to hold a study session on the issue in order to come up with a solution that works for both Oakwood and residents of the area. The date for that session has not been set.
The second reading of the motion to repeal the ordinance would come before council again Dec. 18, at which time they could approve or deny it.