Chesapeake council discusses complaints, proposed changes to tobacco, vape shops

Chesapeake council discusses complaints, proposed changes to tobacco, vape shops

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Tuesday night, Chesapeake City Council members talked about proposed changes involving tobacco and vape shops in the city, and even some shops that were recently caught by police selling products to an underage sheriff’s deputy.

News 3 talked with a woman named Barbarra, who has worked at a tobacco and vape shop in Chesapeake for five years.

“This is my livelihood,” Barbarra said. “I enjoy my job, and I enjoy the education side of it.”

But Tuesday, she and others heard about a recent inspection by Chesapeake Police that was spawned after complaints from residents of underage sales.

CPD Chief Mark Solesky said police chose two tobacco and vape shops in each of the city’s five precincts, where an undercover, underage sheriff’s deputy tried to buy products.

Jeff Bunn and other city council members learned from police that 90 percent of those shops that were chosen for the inspection sold products to the underage deputy.

“It was very alarming to me that 9 out of 10 were not in compliance,” Bunn said.

“Hopefully, it will just remind the business owners that sell tobacco and vape products to be mindful of that law that you can’t sell to someone that’s under 21,” Chief Solesky told News 3, citing Virginia code.

For Barbarra, following the state code is vital.

“It’s not OK that people are trying to undermine a law that is put in to protect others,” she said.

City council members also approved a resolution requesting the city’s planning commission to consider and make recommendations concerning proposed amendments to the city’s zoning ordinance.

According to city staff, changes would include creating 1,000 ft. distance requirements between tobacco and vape stores and schools, parks, daycares, and other tobacco, smoke or vape shops.

It would also add definitions of a “Tobacco, Smoke, or Vape Shop” and a “Marijuana Dispensary.”

Chesapeake native Aundre Gardiner and her son, Amadeus, are open to the changes.

“It might keep some who haven’t started [from] not starting,” Aundre Gardiner said.

For Amadeus, a middle school student, he believes these changes can help address the idea of curbing underage sales.

“It shows that genuine resources and effort are being dedicated to solve this issue,” Amadeus Gardiner said.

As for Barbarra, she has mixed feelings about the idea.

“I see where they want to ensure safety, especially with how close a lot of newer stores are to school areas,” Barbarra said. “I don’t know how it’s going to affect already established businesses who’ve been here for years. Is it going to harm us? That’s the worry.”

According to city staff, what’s next after Tuesday’s meeting will be a planning commission public hearing set to be held in July.

Following that hearing, News 3 is told a city council public hearing will be held.

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