Secondhand Smoke Appeal Accepted as Issue Grows in Greenbelt
After the Court of Appeals granted Schuman's request to appeal his secondhand smoke case, 11 co-op neighbors asked for a smoke-free row of homes.
Just a month after David Schuman won the right to appeal his secondhand smoke case in court, a new anti-smoking movement is emerging in Greenbelt.
A group of 11 co-op members have filed a request with GHI to change their Mutual Ownership Contracts by requiring their homes to be smoke-free.
"We, the members of the 13 A-H Ridge Road row, have unanimously determined that we wish to become smoke free," the neighbors wrote to GHI.
"We request that we be allowed to modify our Mutual Ownership Contracts [MOCs] so that indoor smoking in these units is a violation of the contract," they stated — calling for a permanent ban that applies to all future MOCs on that row as well.
But according to the neighbor who started the drive, Judy Bell, they are only seeking to change the MOCs for their row, not all of GHI.
On Nov. 3, 2011, GHI won a court case brought against it and a neighbor of David S. Schuman. In the complaint, co-op member Shuman stated that his neighbor’s secondhand smoke created a nuisance that GHI failed to solve in accordance with his MOC.
In David S. Schuman v. Greenbelt Homes, Inc. et al., Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Albert Northrop ruled that although secondhand smoke may be dangerous, in this case it was not an actionable nuisance.
After the defeat, Schuman filed a notice of appeal on Nov. 28. And on Feb. 2, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland accepted his case.
Though Schuman and GHI have gone to court over the secondhand smoke issue, Bell said that when she first approached GHI Board President Tokey Boswell, the conversation was not hostile. Instead, he was "very receptive, listening and curious.”
The co-op members’ request is on the agenda for the board's Thursday night meeting. GHI is waiting on legal advice from an attorney, which it hopes to bring to the meeting, according to Eldon Ralph, GHI General Manager.
Former smoker and current 13 court resident, Elizabeth Jay, said she signed the request. When a renter in the unit next to hers started smoking outside, she had not realized how much it would bother her. In her smoking days she couldn't even smell smoke, she said.
But when he lived next to her, she said, "I was startled to find out how pervasive it was."
The renter is gone now, and Jay, who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, doesn't want to deal with the smell of smoke again. But she may have to. Her long-time neighbor, Dirce Ronchi, passed away in Feb. and now her daughter, Diane Ronchi, is preparing the unit to go on the market.
Ronchi said that her mother, a GHI resident of 65 years, had signed the petition.
Now that the elder Ronchi is deceased, the matter becomes more complicated. It may hinge on the smoking status of whoever purchases the home and how willing they are to jump on board with the row.
But Laura Moore, former GHI board member, said the membership at-large can address how it wants to handle the issue through bylaw changes. In an interview Tuesday, she said that according to her read of the current bylaws, it only takes 10 people to put something on the agenda for the annual membership meeting, as long as they request it 35 days in advance.
The meeting is scheduled for May 17. This gives members plenty of time to do something, according to Moore.