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McHenry considering zoning change to address vape shops

There are 32 businesses with tobacco licenses in McHenry

Mayor Wayne Jett, left, and city attorney David McArdle discuss an agenda item during a McHenry City Council meeting on Monday, April 15, 2019 in McHenry.
Mayor Wayne Jett, left, and city attorney David McArdle discuss an agenda item during a McHenry City Council meeting on Monday, April 15, 2019 in McHenry.

The McHenry City Council is considering a zoning change to restrict vape shops within city limits.

City Council members put in place a moratorium on vape shops earlier this year and now want to make a decision on how best to regulate and restrict the businesses. There currently are 32 businesses with tobacco licenses throughout the city, which includes five vape shops.

If a business has a tobacco license it can sell traditional tobacco products along with vaping products, McHenry Police Chief John Birk said.

Council members decided at a recent meeting to bring back an ordinance that could limit where any new vape shops would go by changing the zoning rules. The details on where the stores would be allowed has yet to be decided.

The approach is similar to what the village of Huntley did in June.

Huntley’s rule reduced the number of permitted zoning districts in which tobacco and vape retailers can operate from six to one.

The Huntley board also set a minimum distance between any two tobacco and vape shops at 1,000 feet. The distance between a shop and any premises used primarily as a school, child care facility or for the education or recreation of children younger than 18 also is 1,000 feet.

McHenry Alderwoman Bobbi Baehne said she was in favor of stronger regulation, particularly because vaping is popular with teenagers.

“It’s really so dangerous and it’s being abused by high school and junior high school kids in our community, which is pretty unfortunate,” she said.

Birk said that the new Tobacco 21 legislation and aggressive compliance checks on a local level would help stem underage use of the products. The zoning change would offer the city a chance to better control the number of stores and where they are, he said.

“From the law enforcement side, we have already started taking an aggressive stance on compliance checks,” Birk said. “I think the change to state law along with our compliance checks will help us with youth using vaping products.”

State law now forbids the sale of tobacco products to people younger than 21.

The police work with McHenry School Districts 15 and 156 to educate students and parents about the potential danger of using vape products, Birk said.

“It is not a harmless habit by any means,” Birk said.

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