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DALLAS-Butt out. That’s what many Texas municipalities would like to see, but it’s not realistic from a building owners’ perspective, say executives in Dallas-Ft. Worth and Austin.

Many Texas cities have adopted stringent regulations for public places in the decade-long anti-smoking campaign. Property owners are following the rules, but still providing smoking areas to accommodate tenants.

“As a landlord, we walk a very fine line so you don’t upset your tenants as well as be responsive to the community,” Feliz Jarvis, vice president with the Billingsley Co., tells Billingsley’s International Business Park spans Carrollton and Plano, the more restrictive of the two cities.

Becky Rowland, Billingsley’s vice president of property services, says six months ago copies of Plano’s ordinances had been sent to all tenants due to repeated violations. Security cameras had caught employees standing inside the buildings and holding their cigarettes outside the glass doors. Faced with a $2,000 penalty per violation, Billingsley floated the ordinance copies so the onus is on the tenant instead of the building owner.

Buildings must be posted with no smoking signs and smoking areas kept 20 feet from public entrances. Rowland says one tenant, before move-in, had worked with Billingsley’s architect to construct covered smoking areas. The tenant was coming from Oklahoma City and wanted its employees to still be able to enjoy a cigarette break in a comfortable, park-like setting. The extra mile had been walked because the tenant had said it has a good crop of producers, who like to smoke and it was to be a setting “just like we have a place for our employees to go to get a cup of coffee and relax,” Rowland recalls.

The dual-pronged obligation sometimes is a difficult road to travel. “If we lease to only nonsmoking companies we will have empty buildings,” says Rowland.

The environmentally conscious city of Austin restricts smoking within just 15 feet of public entrances. Like DFW, there is no smoking in office buildings, malls or its airport. Austin has gone a step further with its bar and lounge anti-smoking policy and imposed time restrictions as well as the more commonplace costly air filtering systems. There is no smoking in bars and lounges until 2 p.m. each day. The privilege ends at 6 a.m. And, 25% of the seating area must be reserved for non-smokers.

“For most commercial office buildings, city code dictates so we really don’t have to brave company rules,” says Tracy Dahl, Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group’s property manager at the 133,000-sf Park North and 120,000-sf Reunion Park. Unfortunately, tenants like to break the rules and have been caught repeatedly smoking in the bathrooms and stairwells despite the fair-weather climate of the capital city. It is, says Dahl, a never-ending battle but one that is fought to avoid a penalty from the city. Again, the onus is on the tenant if the property is posted.

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