The city of Delaware could join neighboring communities in banning smoking near park playgrounds and other spaces where children play.

The city of Delaware could join neighboring communities in banning smoking near park playgrounds and other spaces where children play.

At its Dec. 10 meeting, Delaware City Council discussed proposed plans to implement a "soft" ban on smoking near the park spaces most frequented by children.

The plan was proposed by the Delaware General Health District, which has been successful this year in curbing smoking in Delaware County parks. This fall, it spurred similar bans in Powell and Liberty Township.

Those bans, like the one being considered by Delaware officials, aren't strictly enforced. Smokers aren't ticketed for smoking in a restricted area, but supporters of soft bans say residents feel empowered to ask smokers to move if they can point to a sign.

"If we did have a prohibition against smoking in a park, enforcement is difficult to do," Assistant City Manager Allen Rothermel said. "No one really wants to be involved in enforcement of that, but if you suggest that people please don't smoke in the park, it kind of polices itself."

The health district would pay to have "no smoking" signs installed in Delaware parks if officials approve the plan, as it did in Powell and Liberty Township.

Mayor Gary Milner initially suggested putting signs at park entrances so the ban would apply to the entire park, but council members Lisa Keller and Andrew Brush pushed back.

Keller said smokers, as taxpayers who help pay for public parks, should be allowed to smoke in parks away from children.

The Powell and Liberty Township bans allow smoking in areas away from playgrounds, sports fields, shelters and public restrooms.

"To come into a park and tell people they can't smoke in an area where there are no kids, and they're not harming anyone -- I just don't see what the harm is," Keller said.

Brush added: "If I had children, I wouldn't necessarily want people smoking around them in the immediate vicinity, but if I'm walking in Mingo Park on a path where someone is smoking, I think I'd just move on with my day and find some way to cope with it."

Vice Mayor Windell Wheeler said a sign asking residents to refrain from smoking only near children would be "worthless."

"We should just say no smoking in the parks areas -- all parks areas. I don't have an issue with posting that," he said.

Regardless, council members agreed they rarely see anyone smoking in city parks.

Council tabled the issue and made plans to discuss possible language for signs at its next meeting, set for Thursday, Dec. 27.

Also at the Dec. 10 meeting, council approved final development plans for a new automobile dealership on U.S. Route 23.

Chesrown Auto Group will move its Chevrolet dealership to the site of the old Liberty United Methodist Church on Route 23, with construction to begin early next year. The car dealership currently is on a lot just up the street on Route 23, north of Hull Drive.

The church congregation that formerly occupied the site is making a long-planned move to a new location after the holidays. The church building, which officials said is antiquated and in disrepair, will be demolished as part of the construction plan.

The move will allow the Chevrolet dealership to expand its operations from about 4.5 acres to 7 acres.

The development plan includes extensive landscaping buffers around the perimeter of the lot, which borders a residential neighborhood.

"It really is an outstanding contribution to that 23 corridor," City Manager Tom Homan said. "We hope that we can get some of the adjoining property owners to the north to make some improvements as well."