CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Do you know where you are allowed to sell vape products? The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors voted on Wednesday night to approve a proposed zoning rule for specific types of stores in the county.
This proposal the Board of Supervisors approved says that new businesses selling vape, tobacco and other smoking products can not be within 2,000 feet of a Chesterfield County school.
To accomplish this, the board will introduce guidelines regarding the products that are sold to determine which stores will have to follow the new rule. Stores that have 25% or more of their inventory or 15% or more of their display areas taken up by vape, tobacco and other smoking products will be subject to this new rule.
Now that the new zoning rule has passed, stores that qualify for the zoning change will also only be allowed to operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week.
Those businesses will be required to be at least 2,000 feet away from the property line of both public and private schools that house pre-K through high school students.
That same distance also applies to the property lines of similar stores. This means that no two vape stores can be within 2,000 feet of each other.
Andy Gillies, Director of Planning for the county, says the board wants to get a handle on where these types of stores are going as they are becoming more common. Chesterfield staff determined there were at least 235 stores that sold tobacco products and nicotine vaping products in the county as of September 2022.
“We got some concerns from both our board of supervisors and our planning commissioners that this was growing land use,” Gillies said. “Some of the other national studies have shown that the density of the closeness of those particular stores also increases the likeliness of students or adolescents, maybe taking up smoking or vaping. We wanted to get some distance away from those schools as well as from other vape stores.”
Several owners of local smoke shops spoke at the Wednesday meeting with their concerns. Evan Somogyi, who owns four Kulture Smoke & Vape shops and two Kultivate Wellness CBD shops in Chesterfield, said that the new guidelines were “unfair and unjust” and especially took issue with the requirement that shops will now have to close at 8 p.m., which he argued will negatively affect business.
Gillies emphasized that this proposal will only apply to new businesses, meaning that the location of existing vape and tobacco shops in the county will not be impacted. Gillies also said he and his staff looked at similar local business hours and tried to establish times that were reasonable and not too restrictive to business owners or customers.
Now that the zoning change is approved, it will go into effect on Thursday.
The planning commission voted last month to recommend approval of the new zoning rules.