CENTERVILLE — Despite some public opposition, tobacco specialty shops are a thing of the past as new city code prohibits them in all zoning districts.
The city council approved planning commission regulations in its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night. Prior to approval, the city council held a public hearing, giving people a chance to voice their opinions.
There were those who disagreed with the proposed changes. Multiple individuals spoke in opposition to the state and Centerville law, stating that rights were being taken away by approving the suggested changes.
The changes were prompted by a 2012 legislative bill that addressed tobacco specialty businesses, creating restrictions on location and sale of tobacco paraphernalia. These items were effective July 1.
In May this year, Centerville officials enacted a temporary ordinance barring new applications for tobacco retail specialty businesses until the city could address issues spurred by the legislative bill.
“The proposed changes are a direct response to state law and not a specific effort on the city’s part to address or regulate moral issues,” said Assistant City Manager Blaine Lutz.
The city needed to establish a definition and decide on applicable districts to allow the newly defined land use, according to a city background report. Lutz explained that new state laws require a 600-foot buffer zone away from all residential and agricultural zones to minimize the impact on residents.
“This is somewhat similar to taverns and sexually oriented businesses,” he said.
Lutz said that according to the distance requirements in the state law, Centerville had only one area where such shops could be allowed. That area was less than a block in size, he said.
The city took it one step further.
Centerville’s planning commission approved its definition of a tobacco specialty retail shop and where to allow these establishments at its July 25 meeting.
The approved definition is: a commercial establishment where tobacco sales account for more than 35 percent of total annual gross receipts for the business. The commission also recommended listing the land use for such shops as “not permitted” in all zoning districts.
The suggested items were then forwarded for final approval by the city council. The changes mean no more allowed smoke shops, although Lutz said the existing one would be grandfathered in.
The commission’s rationale for its recommendations was forwarded to council. This included mention that tobacco specialty retail is considered a “non-essential” service for the community. The report further states that tobacco products would continue to be available through other retail establishments and would have less of an impact.
Treatment of tobacco stores is similar to those used for restrictions on businesses whose base is alcohol or beer sales, according to the report.
The planning commission decision was unanimous, while the city council approval was not. The vote was 2-2, with the mayor casting the final vote in favor of the changes.