Eudora bans use of e-cigarettes indoors, tobacco products in parks

On Monday, Eudora became the first city in Douglas County to extend the state indoor smoking ban in public-access buildings to include e-cigarettes and forbid their use along with traditional tobacco products in city recreational facilities and parks.

The commission unanimously approved two ordinances enacting the bans, which had been the subject of workshops in the last month. Chris Tilden, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department director of community health, noted the actions came on the eve of the Lawrence City Commission’s consideration of a policy that would ban the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products in that city’s parks and recreation facilities.

“Congratulations, you’ve leap-frogged Lawrence to become the shining star of Douglas County,” he said. “We know the use of e-cigarettes is growing among children at an alarming rate. Ordinances like this are important in discouraging their use and keeping children away from the process.”

Kaitlyn Perry, health promotion specialist with the health department, said the indoor ban on e-cigarettes would protect the people from a growing health risk.

“There’s a lot of evidence they are not safe to be around,” she said. “The vapors are not just water.”

The two health department officials said there were probably a handful of cities in the state that had banned the use of e-cigarettes indoors and 1,200 municipalities nationwide that banned the use of them, along with tobacco products, in parks.

The city did not ban possession of e-cigarettes or tobacco products in parks, but their use, Eudora City Manager Gary Ortiz clarified.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ortiz shared with commissioners the request for proposals that will be sent to interested developers of the old Nottingham Elementary School and adjacent athletic field.

The city bought the property for $850,000 from the Eudora school district last year with the intent of getting the 15-acre site developed. The property is on the city’s gateway just north of Kansas Highway 10 on Church Street.

The request states that ideally the site would be transformed into a pedestrian-friendly development that includes a major retail/mixed use “power” center and high-density residential and/or office space. The development guidelines the city developed in 2011 with community input for what is now known as the Nottingham property is included as an exhibit with the request. But it is also stated because of the “unique nature of the site,” the city is willing to negotiate suggestions of “other creative development standards and guidelines.”

Ortiz said the RFP would hit the streets Jan. 22, and the deadline for responses is March 3. A short list of potential developers will be chosen March 18, and those developers interviewed March 24.

The developer will be notified March 29 with the goal to start construction at the site next fall, Ortiz said.

The commission would be asked to name a selection committee to cull responses to the short list and conduct the interviews, Ortiz said.

The city is pursuing a tax-increment financing district for the site, which could include existing businesses across Church Street to the east, said Barack Matite, assistant city manager. He and Ortiz are scheduled to meet with those business owners at 10 a.m. Thursday. City officials would also be meeting with Eudora school district officials and Douglas County government staffers about tax abatements that could be part of the TIF district, he said.

In other business, the commission:

• Acted on a revised staff recommendation and declined to extend reductions to permit fees on new housing starts that have been in place the past four years. The reductions were meant to spur housing starts. City codes inspector Curt Baumann said positive trends in Kansas City metropolitan area and state housing starts led him to propose ending the incentives. Eudora issued permits for nine new home starts in 2015.

• Learned a dilapidated house at 620 W. 20th St. was found to be asbestos free. With that information, the Eudora Fire Department will burn the house as a training exercise, which will include the Eudora and Wakarusa township fire departments and others in the county. Eudora Fire Chief Ken Keiter said the structure would be gone by the end of the day’s training

• Leaned from Keiter than applications for the position of assistant fire chief ends today. The department has received 22 applications, many from out of state, he said.