No new vape shops will be allowed to open up in Gainesville while city officials work on an ordinance that would regulate the businesses.
The moratorium, approved by the Gainesville City Council Tuesday, would last for 120 days or until a new ordinance is passed, whichever time period is shorter.
The item was not on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting and had not been made public previously.
Councilmembers Barbara Brooks and Ruth Bruner voted against the idea, while all other councilmembers, along with Mayor Danny Dunagan, voted in favor. An item needs at least four votes in favor of it to pass.
The resolution passed Tuesday includes a “temporary moratorium of the operation of vape shops (except as to those businesses with vested rights) within the City of Gainesville,” along with a temporary ban on issuing business licenses for vape shops, rezoning to allow the businesses, and building permits to construct them.
According to the resolution, “depending upon the circumstances of the vape shops, or the application for the operation of said businesses, the governing body will make a case-by-case determination of any vested rights regarding said existing business operations or applications.”
City Manager Bryan Lackey said after the meeting that the city does not plan to address existing vape shops during the moratorium period.
During that period, city officials will prepare an ordinance that regulates vape shops in the city, similar to the county’s recent proposal that the Hall County Board of Commissioners will vote on Oct. 10.
“We’re particularly concerned with the act of vaping, so we’re concerned about regulating the actual act of vaping and there potentially being a gap in our code in that regard,” city attorney Abb Hayes said after the meeting. “… We want to give guidance to both existing and prospective businesses.”
There was some confusion among councilmembers during the meeting about how the resolution would affect existing businesses.
“We can’t retroactively shut somebody down, but of course, we do have the right to regulate and address public health, safety and welfare, so we’re going to be passing those regulations and that may affect some businesses according to this,” Hayes said. “This is just a moratorium to allow us to do this and not have anybody else come in in the meantime.”
Hayes said the city will work with business owners to answer their questions.