Council considers restricting smoke shops

City Council will consider an ordinance to limit smoke shops, tobacco stores, hookah lounges and cigar bars within commercial districts.

The ordinance (O-29-17) was introduced at the Sept. 11 regular meeting with a public hearing and final vote scheduled during the City Council’s next regular meeting, Oct. 10.

UPDATED, Oct. 11: With no comment from the public or its members, City Council unanimously approved the ordinance on second reading last night, by a vote of 7-0 (4th Ward Councilman David Brown and 5th Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier were absent).

The measure would amend and supplement Chapter 421, Zoning, of the code of the City of Rahway to prohibit certain uses in certain business zones, limiting the “location of hookah lounges and cigar bars to areas which are both accept able to the owners of such entities and consistent with city’s zoning objectives and master plan.”

The “overriding objective of this ordinance is to establish general guidelines for the siting of hookah lounges, cigar bars, smoke shops and tobacco stores to ensure that the public health, safety and welfare is safeguarded” that municipal land use law is satisfied.

The impetus behind tSticksCigar.MainSt1521he ordinance was largely due to the efforts of the Rahway Prevention Coalition to reduce the use of tobacco and drugs among youth, according to City Administrator Cherron Rountree. Limiting these types of establishments downtown coincides with those efforts, she said.

Ordinances take effect 20 days after they are approved. Existing shops will be grandfathered in as is the case with any city ordinance, according to Rountree,

Sticks Cigars recently opened on Main Street and not long ago Smoker’s Den on Irving Street closed after many years in operation. C&T Signature Cigars has been operating on West Grand Avenue for almost two years.

Two years ago, the Planning Board denied an application for a smokeshop on East Milton Avenue citing inconsistency with the Central Business District’s (CBD) redevelopment plan or the city’s master plan.

The city has similar regulations for personal service businesses. The Redevelopment Agency in 2008 denied an exception for a hair salon along Irving Street due to the proximity rule, which does not allow a “personal service business” within 1,000 feet of another.

The uses would be prohibited in four specific zones: B-1 Neighborhood Business Zone, B-2 Regional Business Zone, B-4 Service Business Zone and B-5 Central Business Zone.

Rahway Zoning MapHere’s a description of the four zones that would be affected, according to the code of the City of Rahway:

  • B-1 Neighborhood Business Zone: “Encourage small retail facilities which provide goods and services which can satisfy the daily shopping needs. Small-scale civic and philanthropic uses, and cultural or quasi-educational uses, are also encouraged. Residential apartments above the ground floor, subject to certain conditions, are also appropriate.” B-1 fronts both sides of West Grand Avenue almost all the way from Whittier Street to St. Georges Avenue, according to the city’s master plan (.pdf).
  • B-2 Regional Business Zone: “Encourage a mix of convenience and comparative shopping opportunities to both residents in the neighboring residential areas as well as to customers passing by on their way to and from destinations in the region. Freestanding retail uses are permitted but comprehensively planned shopping centers are encouraged.”
  • B-4 Service Business Zone: “Encourage mixed-use environment at the fringes of the central business district (CBD). Except for automotive-oriented uses, all forms of retail, office and multifamily residential uses are encouraged. Arts-related uses and artists’ live/work spaces would be permitted within this zone north of the railroad trestle. Development which helps to preserve, protect or enhance buildings of historic or architectural importance is encouraged.” B-4 covers Main Street west of the rail road tracks, Irving Street north of Main Street and a couple of locations south of Milton Avenue, according to the city’s most recent redevelopment plan.
  • B-5 Central Business Zone: “Create a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented mixed-use downtown environment, in which convenience, specialty and comparative and personal service retail uses are provided for at street level, along with banks, public and entertainment and culture uses. Professional and business offices and apartments are encouraged above the ground floor while automotive-oriented uses and industrial uses are discouraged.”