Centerville seeks to snuff out smoke shops

Published: Saturday, July 28 2012 3:29 p.m. MDT

Centerville leaders want to ban all smoke shops in the city, such as this one Thursday, July 26, 2012, in Centerville. It would be the first municipality in Utah to issue such a ban.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

CENTERVILLE — Sandwiched between a pair of cellphone providers and just a few rows of parking away from a pancake house, a tenant at the Centerville Marketplace advertises "cigars, hookah, gifts and more" on a storefront sign.

City leaders and law enforcement officials say the Smoke Shop at 356 N. Marketplace Drive is out of place, and they want to prevent other tobacco retailers from setting up shop in the city.

"It's been a continuous problem for our police department," City Manager Steve Thacker said of Centerville's lone smoke shop.

The city is considering an all-out ban on tobacco retailers, which would be the first of its kind in Utah, but likely not the last. Municipalities throughout the state are working to revise zoning for such establishments to comply with a new state law that went into effect July 1.

A bill passed during the 2012 Legislature and signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in March requires businesses that want to primarily sell tobacco or smoking paraphernalia to obtain a "tobacco specialty business license," which sets standards for where and how they can operate.

"The thought was we really needed to restrict (smoke shops) and where (municipalities) could put them to keep them away from children and families," said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who sponsored HB95.

The bill sets proximity restrictions on smoke shops to prevent them from locating near schools, libraries, parks and other community areas. The regulations are similar to those on establishments that sell alcohol, though they're even more restrictive.

"If you look at the clientele at tobacco shops, they're not exactly the best people. They're buying drugs for crying out loud," Ray said, referring to shops that have "thumbed their noses" at the state's ban on selling spice.

"Tobacco shops are much more dangerous to a community than a liquor store is," he said.

Ray's bill lists more than a dozen community locations that require a 1,000-foot buffer between smoke shops, including schools, child-care facilities, churches, libraries, parks, youth centers and recreation facilities.

Tobacco specialty shops also must be at least 600 feet from residential and agricultural areas, according to HB95.

Centerville intends to take that one step further and close its borders to tobacco retailers.

"Rather than carving out a small area in the industrial zone, (city leaders) just decided to say, 'You know what? Let's not allow them anywhere because they don't fit in our community,'" Cory Snyder, Centerville's community development director, said.

Snyder said Centerville is a bedroom community with narrow strips of shops and businesses surrounded by residences, eliminating most of the city from being able to accommodate tobacco specialty retailers under the new law.

Even in the city's industrial area west of I-15, residential uses have been introduced, he said, citing the Legacy Crossing development, with its 150-plus apartments near the Megaplex Theatres.

The city's general plan also calls for mixed-use development — including residences — at Shorelands Commerce Park on the north side of the industrial area.

"When you start adding all of those in, along with the parks, the trails and the residential areas, it's a very narrow place that you could probably put them in," Snyder said.

The Centerville Planning Commission has made a recommendation to the City Council to prohibit new smoke shops from opening in the city. If approved by the council next month, tobacco retailers would join tattoo parlors, taverns and social clubs as businesses that are heavily regulated by the state and banned in Centerville.

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