Vape story

Mayor Pro Tem Neil Blais (pictured) expressed concern about a proposed specific use permit for a vape shop due to its planned proximity with a day care center.

Updated Friday at 11:15 a.m. to include comment from Hassan Ali

An ordinance authorizing a specific use permit for a prospective tobacco and vape shop failed to pass in the Little Elm Town Council chambers Tuesday evening after officials expressed concern of the business’s planned proximity with a day care center.

Objections to the permit were first leveled in absentia by Councilman Michael McClellan, who asked Mayor Pro Tem Neil Blais to read an emailed statement of his into the record.

“I do not support the vape smoke shop at the current requested location due to its proximity to the day cares and schools on Lobos [Lane],” the statement said. “Proximity to the current and planned uses is not compatible in my opinion.”

Mayor Curtis Cornelious expressed a similar concern, but contended that Little Elm’s Planning and Zoning Commission addressed the issue in a meaningful way in a previous meeting. Blais expressed openness to granting the permit if a smoking ban was enforced in the retail space, but questioned the enforceability of such an action and ultimately reiterated the same trepidation as McClellan.

Proprietor Hassan Ali told the council that the proposed shop, Uptown Vape and Smoke, would be a considerable distance away from the day care, Creekwood School, and that advertisements for tobacco products would be inconspicuously displayed in the storefront.

Regardless, the ordinance failed to receive a motion and therefore did not pass.

“We have no problem having a vape shop by our school,” said Sharlie Mejia, director of Creekwood School, in a Thursday email to Star Local Media. “There is a liquor store very close to us and we have never had any issues. Our school is somewhat secluded and we feel like it is a very safe location. As a business in Little Elm, there are regulations that we all must follow including a vape shop.”

Ali said in an email that the Planning and Zoning Commission was “on board with it” and that “Clearly the P&Z and City Council do not see eye to eye.”

Noting that he and his brother committed four months and roughly $20,000 to the proposed project, Ali continued, “We were really hoping to be approved, but we do not wish to go through this process again. If it cannot be remedied, we are still not going to give up. We will be looking into other cities to do business.”

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