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posted: 1/22/2014 6:02 PM

Vernon Hills may seek exception to smoking ban for summer festival

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Vernon Hills officials will seek an exception from a recently enacted smoking ban to give visitors to its annual Summer Celebration festival in Century Park a place to puff.

Whether the Vernon Hills Park District will yield remains to be seen, as the ban on tobacco products on park property was enacted this past November.

The issue arose Tuesday during an informal session of the village board.

"I understand people don't like it but it is outside. We feel we have to make some accommodation" for supporters of the event who smoke, Village Manager Mike Allison said.

For years, park district rules had prohibited smoking within 25 feet of any playground or athletic field. A discussion of the rule surfaced last September, and in November the park board voted 3-2 to enact a new rule banning the use of tobacco products within 15 feet of any of its properties.

"I suspect that would probably stand," Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the park district, said of the new rule.

"This was a process that took several months, and that was the consensus of the park board. I think we'd be hypocritical if we allowed it for Summer Celebration. That's my personal opinion," he said.

Summer Celebration is attended by thousands of people during its annual four-day run. The suggestion will be to designate a small area between the beer tent and carnival where smoking would be allowed.

Without such an area, Trustee Thom Koch said, it could create a hazard for people to cross Lakeview Parkway to meet the requirements.

"People will go 15 feet outside the door (to smoke) when it's 5 below," he said, though he supported asking for the special area.

Trustee Barb Williams, a former smoker, said she didn't think the ban would deter anyone from going to the event.

Trustee Jim Schultz agreed the board should sent a letter to the park district asking for the waiver but hopes the board rejects it.

Initial enforcement has involved a warning, although there are fines for subsequent violations. Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said the department would not issue tickets if the ban is upheld but would practice "courteous compliance" and ask offenders to comply with the rules.

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