Huntington tightens zoning laws for new vape shops

Huntington tightens zoning laws for new vape shops

In a decisive move, Huntington Town has decided to tighten its zoning laws, effectively regulating where new vape shops can set up their businesses. This action stems from a conscious effort to mitigate potential code violations and to create a more controlled environment for such establishments.

According to the revised code, any new vape shop hoping to open its doors cannot be situated within 500 feet of the property lines of parks, playgrounds, schools, or places of worship. This regulation is expected to have a significant impact on the locations of future vape shops.

The town didn’t stop with spatial restrictions. They also sought to clarify what qualifies as a vape shop. The updated definition considers a vape shop as any business whose principal operations involve the sale of electronic cigarettes, vape pens, vapors, e-liquids, or other related substances. This replaces the previously ambiguous definition, addressing an issue that town officials had grappled with for some time.

On May 9, the town board voted 5-0 to approve this measure. It was sponsored by members Joan Cergol and Sal Ferro, a demonstration of the town’s commitment to public safety. The decision was a response to concerns raised by the public safety department and the growing complaints from East Northport residents about the surge of vape shops in their community.

Asked about the number of vape shops in the town, spokeswoman Christine Geed said that until the code was updated, the town only kept a record of vape shops if a building permit was necessary. In the past year alone, town officials have fielded 65 inquiries about vape shops, including complaints.

Before the recent changes, the town code classified vape shops under the umbrella of hookah lounges, establishments permitted to allow onsite smoking. Nicole Ercolani, the town code enforcement supervisor, explained that this proved problematic as vape shops are only authorized to sell products, not provide an area for on-site consumption.

Although the zoning laws have been tightened, existing vape shops that do not meet the updated guidelines can continue their operations, says Cergol.

In East Northport, vape shop owners have expressed mixed feelings about the new code. Owen Egan, co-owner of VOID Smoke Shop and Gallery, disagrees with the restriction of vape shops being within 500 feet of places of worship. However, he agrees that they shouldn’t be near schools. In contrast, Sam Kumar, owner of Smokeez, believes the new restrictions will facilitate a healthier business environment, preventing an oversaturation of vape shops in close proximity.

Huntington’s recent move to tighten zoning laws and redefine what constitutes a vape shop is a significant shift in policy. While these changes aim to better regulate vape shops, they also reflect the community’s evolving attitude towards such establishments. Only time will tell if these changes lead to a healthier business environment and address the community’s concerns.

Matthew Ma