Appeal for Sherman smoke shop approved

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Sherman City Council went against the recommendation of P&Z and approved permits for a new tobacco and vape shop on Sunset Boulevard.

Going against the planning and zoning commission, the Sherman City Council accepted an appeal from a smoke and vape shop Monday night.

The approval comes after the Sherman Planning and Zoning Commission initially voted to deny the permits in late September in a four to two vote following concerns over its proximity to an elementary school and impact to neighboring businesses. 

Following the P&Z ruling, the applicants appealed the decision, sending it to the city council for a final decision, and council voted to approve permits for I Fly Smoke and Vape that will allow it to open its first Sherman location on Sunset Boulevard.

"It seems disingenuous to have Dairy Queen say we don't want any more smoke shops because we've already got too many of them here," Robert Minshew said Monday while representing the applicant. "It is a legal business and I don't think it is up to Dairy Queen to pick and choose what businesses can go in across the street at a shopping center."

While defending the application, Minshew said that there are two other nearby businesses, including a gas station thats sell tobacco products. Yet, they are not being given the same level of scrutiny as the proposed smoke shop.

Despite this, Minshew noted that the specific permit would give the city more control over the business, including instituting age restrictions for customers inside the business. He said that these restrictions and controls should give the council confidence in allowing the business to move forward.

Minshew said that all of the products that would be legal within the state of Texas. Members of the council noted that the applicant mentioned in September that other stores in the chain sold items, including glass pipes, that are more associated with drug use than with tobacco. Minshew noted that these items are sold at stores outside of Texas and wouldn't be at the Sherman location.

During the September P&Z meeting, the commission received a letter in opposition from the Sherman School District who said the location was within 200 feet of Wakefield Elementary. 

"Sherman ISD's position on tobacco and vape stores within 200 feet of property owned by the district would be the same as alcohol sales," the district wrote in a letter to the commission. "... Our rationale is that the products sold at these establishments are listed as prohibited items in our student code of conduct and employee handbook."

The request also received pushback from the owner of the nearby Dairy Queen, who voiced concern over the impact to neighboring businesses.

While the district may not want the smoke shop nearby, Minshew noted that this is not reflected in the city's ordinances. Instead, the only restrictions limit how close advertisements for tobacco can be from a school.

When put to a vote, the council voted to approve the appeal and grant the permit with Sandra Melton as the sole opposing vote. Some members of the council noted that there was little fear that a student from the school could be confused for a customer of the appropriate age.

"I don't think anyone is confusing a fourth grader for an 18-year-old, right," Council Member Josh Stevenson joked. "Maybe if it was a middle schooler I could see it."