AP NEWS

Council OKs permit for vape shop

February 26, 2019

Pearland City Council recently voted 4-2 to approve a conditional-use permit for a proposed smoke and vape shop after several members voiced concerns about the business and products it would sell.

“How do we want our city to continue to look?” said Councilman Derrick Reed, who joined Woody Owens in voting against issuing the permit for Imperial Smoke/Vape, which will be in a shopping center at 2002 North Main St. in Pearland. “What makes this decision tough is that you want a free market, but we also want to make sure we have input and make decisions based on how the citizens want the city to look down the line.”

Reed noted that several other smoke and vape shops are in the area.

Voting in favor of the permit with two amendments were Adrian Hernandez, Trent Perez, David Little and Tony Carbone. Councilman Gary Moore was not in attendance at the Feb. 25 meeting, which was a joint session with the city’s planning and zoning commission.

Little and Carbone said they didn’t like the idea of the smoke and vape shop but that because of free enterprise, they approved the permit.

Hernandez made a successful motion to add restrictions that customers must be at least 18 years old and that the shop only have an open-and-closed sign other than the marquee.

Before the vote, Owens focused on what the shop would sell, asking business owner Arif Maredia if his products could be used for drug use.

Maredia, who is also the owner of four smoke and vape shops around the greater Houston area, said the primary focus of his shops are for vaping and that other products would be for tobacco use.

“Ninety percent of our sales is vape products,” Maredia said. “The other stuff we have is more of a novelty item.”

Owens questioned the vape products and their nicotine levels, noting the levels can change and reach the same level as a cigarette, which could create a gateway for young adults to use cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Maredia said the vape products he sells are healthier than cigarettes because they don’t have the same “bad stuff” in them, like tar.

Hernandez said he went online before the meeting and looked at the nonvaping products Maredia sells at his other shops such as glass pipes and bongs and asked what those are used for.

Maredia said they were for tobacco use but that his stores do not sell tobacco.

Perez said he, his colleagues and everyone in attendance at the joint meeting were not naïve.

“We know what these products are used for,” he said to Maredia. “I know you’re not naïve. You know what these products are used for. But it is a legal operation and it is allowed.”

Perez said that he would feel more strongly against issuing the permit if it were in front of a neighborhood or near a facility like a school or church.

“I kind of echo what (Little) said, I think it’s a fad. I don’t think these tobacco shops are going to stay open very long,” Perez said, noting a smoke shop near Conn’s HomePlus on Broadway closed recently.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 4, at Pearland City Hall, located at 3519 Liberty Drive.

Tyler.Johnson@chron.com