Clipper Staff Writer
CENTERVILLE — Centerville city leaders may take their first steps toward banning tobacco retailers from the city next week.
If the city council passes the proposed ordinance, it will be the first in the state to ban smoke shops. The action would follow the passage of a bill by the Utah Legislature earlier this year, which restricts where such shops may operate and requires such businesses to obtain a tobacco specialty business license.
Last week, the Centerville Planning Commission recommended that tobacco specialty retail shops not be permitted in any zone.
The city council will discuss those recommendations following a public hearing set for 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7.
“The city is looking at not allowing (smoke shops) in any zone,” said Assistant City Manager Blaine Lutz.
Currently the city has one smoke shop, the City Smoke Shop, at 356 N. Marketplace Drive.
It’s had its ups and downs since it opened and is currently under investigation by police.
The shop, tucked into a strip mall near a cell phone store and shoe store, sells hookah pipes and shisha, cigars, cigarettes, glass pipes, water pipes, accessories and parts.
Centerville Police Chief Neal Worsley wouldn’t comment on the open investigation, except to say that it’s something different from the 2011 investigation that caused the Utah State Tax Commission to revoke the store’s license because employees were selling tobacco products to minors.
The shop reopened a month later under new ownership.
Worsley said he has no time line on when the current investigation may wrap up.
“I hope it’s soon,” he said.
If the city bans tobacco retailers and if the shop is cleared during the investigation, it will be allowed to continue to operate as a “non-conforming use,” in other words, it will be “grandfathered in,” said Community Development Director Cory Snyder.
However, if the city approves the ban and the store closes for any reason, it would not be allowed to open elsewhere in the city.
The Planning Commission based its recommendation on the state definition of where smoke shops should be allowed, which came out of HB 95, sponsored by Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, Snyder said.
The law restricts the location of smoke shops to prevent them from being located within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, churches, libraries and other community areas. The specialty shops must also be at least 600 feet from residential and agricultural areas.
“When you take into account the restrictions (outlined in HB95), there’s hardly anywhere one could operate in Centerville,” Lutz said.
A commercial area near the Centerville Legacy Crossing Theater will have numerous apartments, Lutz said, eliminating that area as a potential site for such a business. There is an industrial area to the north in which a smoke shop could be placed, Lutz said, but because it’s an industrial zone, there will be very little retail allowed there.
“We’d prefer they not be allowed in any zone,” Lutz said. It’s a sentiment echoed by both Worsley and Snyder.
The Planning Commission, in its recommendation, noted “tobacco products would remain available within other retail establishments, in a less impactful way, that do not constitute a tobacco specialty retail business.”
Attempts to contact the owner of the City Smoke Shop for comment were unsuccessful.