Frisco mayor addresses vaping concerns

Mayor Jeff Cheney said Tuesday that the City Council shared resident concerns of youth use of e-cigarettes and vape products.

Lately, when Frisco resident Sumana Velpula has driven her son to school, she’s noticed a balloon advertising a forthcoming vape and smoke shop.

“And it caused me a concern as to, like, ‘Okay, I want to stop this, but I don’t know how to,’” she said.

She posted something about it on Nextdoor, a neighborhood social networking service, and found out she wasn’t the only one concerned, she said. The store, slated to open near the intersection of Stonebrook and Teel parkways, would be near Reedy High School and Pearson Middle School.

“I don’t know much about the law, I don’t know much about the ordinance, but I know that I want my kids to be safe. Not just my kids, but any kids in Frisco,” she told Frisco City Council members on Tuesday.

The Frisco resident has since crafted a petition for parents who don’t want such a store at the intersection. As of Wednesday, the petition has garnered just under 1,300 signatures.

Velpula was one of eight Frisco residents who shared concerns about the shop. One speaker, Raghuram Ayyaguri, mentioned that a similar shop had recently opened near Maus Middle School.

Multiple speakers called for the Frisco City Council to pass an ordinance that would implement requirements for how far away such shops could operate from schools.

However, Mayor Jeff Cheney made it clear on Tuesday that the city’s options aren’t so cut and dry.

“This specific zoning case, there are vested rights, it is a legal operating business,” he said. “They do have a right to be there and they do sell a legally available product.”

He said the city had previously dealt with similar zoning issues, such as the proximity of beer and wine sales to schools.

“These concerns that you have are certainly shared by council, as far as the issue that we have in our schools and our youth right now with e-cigarettes and vapes,” Cheney said. “It is a very real problem. It is something that our police department spends a lot of time on.”

His comments came after the council’s closed session, which included an agenda item to receive legal advice about zoning, land use “and other issues related to retail tobacco stores.”

“As far as future ordinances to prevent future stores from opening, we received a very in-depth legal opinion from our city attorney, and all I can say is it’s complicated,” Cheney said. “But I can say that your council is listening to you, is aware of the concerns, and all the comments that were made tonight did not fall on deaf ears, that all of us have children and all of us don’t want our children to end up with vapes in their possession.”

Cheney said council members had discussed immediate actions including working with Frisco ISD leaders to “really put some additional effort and energy into educating our youth” and parents.

Cheney added that there was already enforcement being done to make sure such shops aren’t illegally selling products to minors. He also said police officers would be “doubling down” on that enforcement.

“So thank you again for joining us this evening, sharing your feedback, and it’s an issue that we’ll continue to work on,” he said.

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