Farmington council talks smoke shop locations

A proposed ordinance change designed to take smoke and vape shops out of downtown Farmington moved a step closer to reality during Monday’s city council meeting.

Officials approved on first reading a text amendment that clarifies what constitutes a smoke shop and allows the retail businesses only as a special land use in the city’s C3 commercial zoning districts. Planning commissioners last month voted in favor of the amendment.

Farmington Zoning Map
Areas zoned C3 are shown in light blue on the city’s zoning map. Click to see a larger version on the city’s website.

Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said the “special land use” designation means the shops are allowed, but owners must submit a site plan for approval. The process also requires a pubic hearing.

“If they wanted to locate downtown,” he said, “they would have to seek relief from the Zoning Board (of Appeals).”

Council member Steven Schneemann asked about the motivation for the change. Council member Maria Taylor said she brought up the issue based on concerns she heard while campaigning in 2017. She said her specific concern was vape shops.

Schneemann wondered whether a business like Loft Cigar Bar, which opened downtown last year, would be subject to the new rules. The amendment defines a smoke shop as a retail business in which 50 percent of the area is used for “display, promotion, sale, or use” of tobacco and vape products.

“Sale or use… This to me sounds exactly like a cigar bar,” Schneemann said.

City attorney Beth Saarela said the word “use” could be removed from the definition to address the concern, or the definition of a cigar bar could be added. Schneemann also asked her to look into ordinances in cities similar to Farmington, like Plymouth and Northville.

“We have a successful business in downtown already, and I’d hate this to be seen as a shot across the bow,” Schneemann said.

The proposed text amendment will come back to officials at a future meeting for a second reading and approval.