Cumberland County commissioners unanimously voted on Nov. 20 to move forward with a potential zoning ordinance that would restrict where new tobacco and hemp product shops can be located.
The county’s proposed ordinance — which is not yet in effect — will be heard at the next Cumberland County Joint Planning Board meeting on Dec. 19. After that, it will make its way back to the Board of Commissioners for final approval at the regular meeting scheduled for Jan. 2, 2024.
The potential ordinance was first mentioned at the commissioners’ Nov. 9 agenda session. Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. was in attendance at the session to support the ordinance because of its potential impact on local schools.
“This is a problem not only in high schools, but in middle schools,” Connelly said. “When students can walk right out the building, after school and before school, and get it, that's a problem. Anything we can do as a community to limit access, the better.”
The restrictions would closely follow an ordinance passed in Wake County in October.
The statute in Wake County bans any new businesses that mainly sell hemp or tobacco products from being located within 1,000 feet of another tobacco store, school, public park, greenway or residence. Wake’s ordinance does not apply to convenience or grocery stores, but to retailers that primarily sell tobacco or hemp products.
The proposed restrictions passed by Cumberland commissioners would only apply to unincorporated areas of Cumberland County, like Gray’s Creek, and not in any of the municipalities — unless those municipalities pass their own ordinances restricting tobacco and hemp shops.
According to an email from Fayetteville's Marketing and Communications Director, Loren Bymer, the Fayetteville City Council has not yet submitted any staff requests to “do the research necessary to propose an ordinance similar to what the county has adopted.”
Councilman Mario Benavente said he hasn’t heard much from his colleagues about the matter but thinks it may be something the city could pursue in the future.
“I'm certainly not against that type of ordinance," Benavente said. “In order for this to become something that the city council takes on, it'll probably be in the form of a council member request.”
City council members contacted by CityView did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.
The town of Hope Mills is also considering a response to the commissioners’ bill.
“We are also gearing up for an amendment to our zoning and subdivision ordinances that is intended to include some of these same restrictions tied to tobacco products,” said Hope Mills Executive Assistant Coronda Regan in an email to CityView.
CityView did not receive a response from Regan regarding the timeline of the potential restrictions in Hope Mills by publication date.
Spring Lake has had similar restrictions on tobacco stores to the ones Cumberland County proposed; the restrictions have been in place since September 2019.
The town’s ordinance, however, makes no mention of stores that primarily sell hemp products. The Spring Lake ordinance also increases the distance between tobacco shops to a half-mile radius instead of 1,000 feet.
Contact Char Morrison at email@example.com.