County rejects smoking ban

  • Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Berkeley County Council once again voted a decisive “no” to council member Steve Davis’ resolution to ban smoking in public places in Berkeley County.

Council member Dennis Fish said in July - after Davis first presented the resolution - that where and when an individual smokes should not be up to the government to decide.

“People should have the right to smoke or not smoke and not have the government interfering in our rights and dictate what we do,” he said. “Just like riding a motorcycle and wearing a helmet. There is no helmet law in South Carolina but I still choose to wear a helmet because it is my choice to do so, not because the government mandates I should.”

Fish was absent from Monday night’s county council meeting.

Davis brought the issue up for discussion again during the Facilities and Code Enforcement Committee meeting. After Caldwell Pinckney made a motion to approve it, a pall of silence fell over the council chamber while waiting for a second, nearly killing the proposal.

“Government at its finest,” Pinckney said.

Davis found the lack of a second troubling.

“I don’t know why people are scared to discuss something,” he said. “That’s a cowardly approach by council members. It’s not saying that you support it or are in favor, but not even to have a discussion is really, really disheartening.”

Davis asked whether he could carry on a 21-hour filibuster like in the U.S. Congress, and then told the story about his uncle who was a career smoker and came down with emphysema.

“It’s a sad commentary that parties fail to discuss an issue,” he said. “The purpose of county council is to present topics in the spirit of discussion and debate.”

Davis vowed to put the topic on his agenda as long as he was a member of county council.

Council member Tim Callanan eventually seconded the motion for the purpose of discussion and the motion failed by a 4-2 vote.

Steve Davis and Pinckney voted in favor of the resolution while Callanan, Ken Gunn, Cathy Davis and Phillip Farley voted against it. Fish was absent and Jack Schurlknight left before the vote.

In other business, council cleared the way for the Martin Marietta limestone quarry expansion in Jamestown by approving the resolution out of the Land Use Committee.

“This has been a rather lengthy rezoning process,” said county planning director Eric Greenway. “Martin Marietta has agreed to abide by the self-imposed restrictions and covenants.

Greenway said the county was able to define what constitutes mining operations through discussions with the attorneys and management from Martin Marietta. Also settled over the course of the three readings were several citizens’ concerns such as hours of operation, safety standards, and noise levels during blasting.

Martin Marietta has committed to abide by the hours of operation 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The limestone mining company has also committed to provide a buffer around the quarry property line.

According to Greenway, the county also worked with Martin Marietta to conduct blasting noise tests and consistently the noise levels were far below the listed levels for the zoned area.

“Martin Marietta in my opinion has done everything they’ve been asked to do,” Greenway said. “I applaud their efforts in working with the community and the county.”

Steve Davis, who represents District 8, which includes Jamestown, also praised the effort of cooperation between Martin Marietta and local residents.

“I want to applaud the citizens who diligently fought for these conditions,” he said. “It was always been my process not to tamper with the planning commission. They approved the rezoning with conditions but I think in the spirit of compromise this is the best we can do and I thank all the parties involved to help this come to fruition.”

The resolution will get its final reading before council during its Oct. 28 meeting following a required public hearing.

o Council proclaimed the week of Oct. 23-31 as Red Ribbon Week throughout Berkeley County. The proclamation represents the 23rd year the Berkeley County Prevention Board has made a visible and unified commitment toward the creation of a safe and drug-free Berkeley County.

The Berkeley County Prevention Board is a sponsored by the Ernest E. Kennedy Center and its Prevention Department.

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