City ordinance would allow moratoriums on new tobacco licenses
by BRIAN NADIG
A proposal by Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) to allow for moratoriums on new retail tobacco licenses in specified areas appears to have widespread support among his colleagues.
Thirty-nine of the 50 City Council members quickly “signed on to” the proposed ordinance when it was introduced at the council’s May 25 meeting, and some additional members have expressed interest, Napolitano said.
The ordinance is designed to give communities control of where businesses that primarily sell tobacco and vaping products, although it would apply to all new tobacco license applications, including convenience stores, according to Napolitano.
“These things are popping up left and right,” Napolitano said of smoke and vape shops.
In the 41st Ward, nearly 600 residents signed a petition opposing the opening of a planned vape shop at 6721 N. Northwest Hwy. A sign above the storefront states that the store will sell shoes, vapes, glass and tobacco.
The petition states that selling gym shoes “is a marketing stunt that will irresponsibly lure children to the store in the heart of where families walk to enjoy local restaurants, parks and retail shops.”
THE PETITION also states the community does not need a second vape within two blocks of each other, although the other store Napolitano said has closed.
Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio said that several area high schools have expressed frustration with the level of vaping among their students and that vape stores can provide additional opportunities for students to get tobacco products despite laws prohibiting the sale to minors.
If approved, aldermen will be able to introduce an ordinance that would prohibit new tobacco licenses in all or parts of business districts, with the goal of those seeking a license to have conversations with the community on the appropriateness of the location, Napolitano said.
The ordinance is similar to how moratoriums can be issued to restrict new liquor licenses but can be lifted if the alderman and community support a liquor establishment, Napolitano said. The moratoriums are used primarily to control the opening of liquor stores and taverns, not restaurants seeking an incidental liquor license.
The city has implemented special zoning requirements, including special use permits for hair salons, liquor stores and massage parlors, but not for vape shops, Napolitano said. Currently vape shops can open in any district zoned for business and commercial uses as long as they obtain licenses and would not be within 100 feet of a school, he said.
Special use decisions are made by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which acts independently of the council.
While special use requirements could be implemented for vape shops, lifting a moratorium can be a quicker process and leave the decision to the community which would directly with the alderman, Napolitano said. Special use applicants must pay a fee to the city and often hire a zoning attorney.