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Fayetteville Planning Commission Urges Revision of Draft Rules Limiting Tobacco Shops

Organizers of a new super PAC say they hope to influence the outcome of Fayetteville’s fall elections. Supporters of the Fayetteville First PAC include developers and builders who have been quietly meeting this year to develop a political strategy. They say they Fayetteville police Lt. Darry Whitaker told a city commission Tuesday night tobacco shops increase crime.


He said there are nine tobacco shops along Murchison Road, which is in his police district, and many of them are near neighborhoods.


“That’s just alarming,” he said. “It’s too many.”


Tobacco-oriented businesses, he said, attract a lot of customers on foot and increase drug dealing, loitering and the disturbances.


Whitaker spoke to the Fayetteville Planning Commission, whose members since June have been considering tougher rules on tobacco shops, hookah bars and cigar lounges.


The board Tuesday directed city planners to do more tweaks to the draft ordinance.


Scott Shuford, the city’s chief planner, said he’ll bring the issue back to the City Council’s work session next month before asking the Planning Commission to vote on making a recommendation to the council.


On the advice of Police Chief Harold Medlock, the city is proposing a 500-foot setback between most new tobacco-oriented businesses and existing ones, schools, parks, churches and neighborhoods.


The current proposal calls for forcing 10 tobacco businesses to either close, change how they operate or request for a rezoning.


Craig Harmon, the city’s senior planner, said the proposal would outlaw tobacco shops in areas zoned neighborhood commercial and in the downtown district. The only one downtown targeted for closure under the proposal, he said, is the tobacco shop on Robeson Street, across from the Medical Arts Center.


Some on Murchison Road would have to close, too, but the rest are scattered around town on other corridors, Harmon said.


Whitaker said he hopes the city curbs the clustering of any new tobacco shops.


Lonnie Player, a Fayetteville lawyer, told the board his client operates a Cliffdale Road convenience store that would be targeted for closure for only one reason: He has a Marlboro sign on a store window. Player asked for a word change in the draft ordinance to exempt him, and planning staff and an assistant city attorney, Brian Meyer, said they agreed with the suggestion.