HIGH SPRINGS ‒ A Conditional Use Permit allowing a prospective vape shop failed to pass the High Springs Plan Board Monday evening after officials and residents expressed concerns about the business’s proximity to the High Springs Civic Center Park.

Vape Dimensions, Inc., is to be located in the former Alice’s Parkside Restaurant location at 19358 N.W. U.S. Highway 441. The 0.52 +/- acre property is located directly across the street from the park at the High Springs Civic Center.

Store owner Daniel Deal was present to answer questions and discuss the purpose of his shop, which he said was to help people stop smoking. Deal said he is a 40-year resident of Alachua County and that the vape shop is a family-owned business. Deal opened a store in Alachua in 2016, one in Lake City in 2018 and a third in Gainesville in 2019.

Deal said store hours are proposed to be 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday-Saturdays. He said they card everyone who enters the shop and anyone under 21 years of age would not be admitted. Deal also said he would be selling CBD items and a small amount of glass pipes as well.

A lengthy discussion focused on the detrimental vaping items sold in convenience stores and what Deal said the differences are between those (imported from China) and what he sells.

Jackie Davis, a former nurse and Deal’s mother, addressed the Board, saying that carbon monoxide is present in many of the other vaping items available for sale, but not in their products. She also talked about the results she has seen with people that have used their products to reduce or eliminate their tobacco habit.

During the citizen comments portion of the meeting, Jennifer Lee, who said she was a former teacher, said she knows of kids who started smoking because they started vaping. She talked about three cases she knows of where there has been permanent lung damage to kids who were vaping.

Deal said that those kids were likely using vaping items purchased at convenience stores rather than the products he would sell.

Lee then referred to comments she said were made online by Pastor [Adam] Joy expressing more than 200 people who were against vaping shops.

Joe Nelson expressed concern that the shop would be selling glass pipes and said he didn’t think it was okay for kids across the street at the playground to be exposed to a vape shop.

The city attorney referred to state regulations saying that alcohol could not be sold within 500 feet of a school, but that there were no limitations related to playgrounds.

Bobbi Nelson said that she moved to High Springs because of the small-town atmosphere. She said she didn’t think vaping was good for anyone, let alone 14–15-year-old kids.

The portion of the City regulations on Conditional Use Permits that seemed to be problematic for Board members was Item #8 that deals with the permit not adversely affecting the health, safety or welfare of the community. The city attorney explained that it was up to the Board to decide if the application met those criteria or not.

Although the city attorney explained that the Board could approve the application with whatever restrictions it wanted, such as signage or a limitation on selling medical marijuana, Board members denied approval of the application outright.

Although the Plan Board voted against giving its approval to the Conditional Use Permit, the application will be heard by the City Commission at the Monday, Sept. 25 meeting.

In other Board business, a second application for a Conditional Use Permit for a Tobacco/Vape Shop (AASHI, Inc.) was heard. The proposed store is located in Gator Plaza, 18467 N.W. U.S. Highway 441, across from Bev’s Better Burgers. The property owner was in attendance to present this item as the business owner and proposed tenant was unable to attend the meeting.

The property owner said there is a daycare center in the shopping center, which has children ages five and under. As the store owner was not on hand to answer Board questions, a motion was made to table the application to allow the proposed tenant to be present to answer questions. The matter was tabled to the Oct. 16 Plan Board meeting and will not be heard by the City Commission until it has been heard and acted on by the Plan Board.

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