Zoning defense? Spotsylvania supervisors aim to limit vape shops with revised ordinance

by | Apr 24, 2024 | ALLFFP, Government, Spotsylvania

The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors has not updated its zoning ordinance and design standards manual in nearly 30 years. 

A lot has changed since 1995 in relation to development and land use patterns. 

Another dramatic shift that caught the eye of Spotsylvania’s supervisors is the proliferation of vape shops throughout the county. 

During a joint work session Tuesday night, the supervisors and planning commission heard a presentation from The Berkeley Group, which does consulting work for public entities involving long-range planning and zoning. The firm provided a timeline of summer 2025 to adopt new zoning ordinance guidelines and the design standards manual. 

While the supervisors are looking to manage impending growth in the county, members also made it clear they want to limit vape shops and marijuana dispensaries as well as preemptively prevent a methadone clinic near any school grounds. 

“I’m not trying to kill or determine who can open commercial businesses in the area,” Courtland District Supervisor Drew Mullins said of vape shops. “But this is one of those that just isn’t a healthy endeavor … Every time I drive past one, I feel like, ‘We can do better than this as a county.’” 

Chancellor District Supervisor Gerald Childress expressed concern about vape shops near schools. Childress noted a shop is within walking distance of Riverbend High School, located on Spotswood Furnace Road, off state Route 3. 

“I was just sitting here looking up how old you have to be to buy kratom,” Childress said of the legal drug that is considered addictive by public health experts. “At Riverbend, kids walk down and there’s a huge vape shop sitting there that sells kratom … right in the face of these kids that are coming out of school.” 

Childress said he’s worried that an 18-year-old student can purchase the drug and distribute it to minors at the school. He asked the Berkeley Group representatives to examine a way to limit the proximity of such businesses to schools in the next ordinance, similar to regulations that were adopted by Chesterfield County. 

Salem District Supervisor Deborah Frazier, who is also the principal at Chancellor Middle School, agreed, asking “When is enough, enough?” and saying that the vape shops are “lit up like candy stores.” 

“They have the electric pot leaf glowing. It’s so obnoxious,” said Lori Hayes of the Lee Hill District. “Is there any way we can limit those types of things — the neon or whatever you want to call it, because I think it’s an eyesore.” 

Board Chair Jacob Lane of the Livingston District requested the Berkeley Group investigate preventing any methadone clinics near schools, an issue that has proven a heated topic of debate in neighboring Stafford County. 

“I just want to make sure we’re covered on that end while we’re going through all this to where we don’t have to deal with that,” Lane said. 

Lane also said he received word that owners of a marijuana dispensary are interested in opening in the county and asked the firm to examine potential guidelines for that type of business. 

He is also concerned about skilled games in gas stations but was reminded that issue is being handled at the state level.

The future of the gambling machines is in limbo. The Senate voted 34-6 last week to reject Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s changes to a proposal to legalize and tax the games, which are similar to slot machines. 

The Berkeley Group representatives took a tour of new developments in the county on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they met with county stakeholders, including engineers, surveyors, attorneys and citizens that make up the development community to finalize the investigation portion of the process. 

Drafting sessions with the planning commission begin in June and will be held regularly until the adoption phase starts early next year. The adoption phase will consist of a third-party legal review and a review by the county attorney’s office, an open house for public feedback, two pre-adoption work sessions, public hearings and final adoption. 

The intent of the update is to make sure the zoning ordinance and design standards manual comply with state code, contain clear language, address modern zoning issues, consider zoning flexibility and are revised for compatibility with the comprehensive plan. The structure of the ordinance will also be organized. 

Caroline Vanterve, the project manager, said verbiage in the documents needs to be streamlined and more user-friendly for residents. She said the language also needs to be clearer, so the ordinance is easily enforceable by county staff. 

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