Commentary: Vape Shop regulations – Discriminatory or Failure to Act?
I read in a recent local publication (NVDaily: “Front Royal Council Discusses Vape Shop Boom,” March 17th) that Front Royal is struggling to explain the proliferation of vape shops within the town limits. The current shop count as indicated by the source was a total of 11 retail outlets. Recent concern expressed by Mayor Cockrell as a result of an abundance of negative social media outpouring, compelled the mayor to address this issue in a recent Town Council work session. In attendance was Laura Kopishke, Director of Planning and Zoning for Front Royal. Kopishke is quoted as saying:
“We are not soliciting but we are also not discriminating against them either so vape stores fall under retail uses — they are selling a product,” Kopishke said. “We cannot discriminate against that product that they sell.”
Additionally, Council Member Amber Morris is also quoted as concurring with the opinion rendered by Kopishke by stating that:
“The problem that we ran into was the only thing we could do was tighten our zoning regulations because, as a pretty conservative council who also enjoys free enterprise, at what point do we start regulating businesses and … at what point do you say ‘we just don’t like your type of business’ and it’s discriminatory,” Morris said.
As a town property owner and layman in government affairs, I cannot accept these statements at face value. The Commonwealth of Virginia, based upon moral ground, quality of life, and in protecting the good of the Commonwealth, has and does restrict business activity that could be deemed as corruptive or detrimental to the moral turpitude of the community. You will not find gambling establishments, title loans, internet cafes, private liquor stores, houses of ill repute, Strip Clubs, bars (where food does not count for 51% of revenue) and recreational marijuana dispensaries — yet. Somehow, the state has found that restrictions of these establishments is not discriminatory.
Furthermore, the Town of Front Royal’s Zoning Chapter 171-1(A)(B) provides town leadership the authority to classify districts in order to “regulate, restrict, permit, prohibit and determine the following: The use of land, buildings, structures and other premises for agricultural, business, industrial, residential, floodplain and other specific uses”.
Upon review of the Town of Front Royal’s Zoning Code, the Community Business District (C-1), which encompasses most if not all of the commercial corridors through town, does indeed list retail establishment uses as By-Right. Of course, Vape Shops fall under this retail guideline. There are about 40-plus/minus uses that are approved without requiring a Special Use Permit, and then another 20 uses approved via Special Use permitting. What is interesting are the retail “exceptions” further explained in Section 175-39.C of the Zoning Code. Retail establishments are not permitted to engage in transactions that are: “inclusive of coal, wood, oil, and lumberyards, accessory uses, adult bookstores (stores engaged in the sale of magazines and other publications of sexually-oriented nature), massage parlors and stores engaged in the sale of sexual aids, devices and merchandise.” – (Amended 7-25-05, 7-28-08 and 6-22-15-Effective Upon Passage)
This seems odd. Under current Council’s and Administration’s logic, these exclusions would be discriminatory to entrepreneurs that desire to engage is such business activity. While some of these industries may seem unsavory and operating contrary to the common good, why can’t vape/tobacco/THC shops be inclusive/included on this list, or at the bare minimum be removed from the retail category? Why can’t council change their zoning ordinances to place Vape Shops under a C-1 Commercial category where a Special Use Permit can/must be sought? Or better yet, create a special zoning district called the Cannabis Business District (CBD—No Pun intended). This would give Council the leverage it needs to control the influx and eventually control the districts where marijuana would be permitted to be sold. Once Cannabis licenses are granted — and it is currently planned that the State issue just 400 retail licenses statewide to sell marijuana — it is my opinion that competitive forces will force non-cannabis licensed vape shop owners out of business.
I agree with statements by Morris suggesting that vape shops are simply establishing locational dominance to aid in their business activities if they apply and are awarded a recreational THC license. However, I do not agree with the fact that Front Royal’s hands are completely tied or even tied at all in dealing with this influx.
As new or newly legal products and technologies enter the market, the Town must stay ahead of this curve to plan for future impacts. I am afraid it may be too late for the 11 existing businesses, but now is the time to end the influx, better control it, and direct where you will allow the future Marijuana shops to operate. This is not discriminatory. — This is planning. You have the tools. Use them. People don’t plan to fail, but they do fail to plan.
By Gregory A. Harold
(Editor’s note: Harold is a former member of the re-formed FR-WC EDA Board of Directors.)
A Day of Remembrance: Colonel James Wood II Chapter, Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution and American Red Cross hold Memorial Day event
The hallowed grounds of Winchester’s National Cemetery reverberated with the echoes of history this Memorial Day. Local citizens, the youth of Cub Scout Den 45, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (named after Colonel James Wood II, an influential figure in the American Revolution), and the American Red Cross (a humanitarian organization tracing its roots back to 1881) came together to pay homage to the heroes of our past.
This event beautifully encapsulated a tradition that traces its lineage to the era of the Civil War. The roots of this observance trace back to a suggestion by Henry Welles in 1865 in the village of Waterloo, New York, for a day of decorating the graves of the fallen Civil War heroes, which came to be known as Decoration Day.
In keeping with this rich history, ahead of the Memorial Day ceremony on May 29th, flags were placed on the graves at the National Cemetery. Leslie Caliva of the American Red Cross, an organization with a rich history of service, hosted the formal observance. The color guard, led by Commander Brett Osborn, and the honor guard, led by Jim Cordes, presented colors in a show of respect for the fallen.
CJWII Chaplain Thomas Reed, inheriting the historic title of Chaplain, offered an inspiring invocation, while the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Charles Hunter, USA (Ret), from the storied VFW Post 2123. The keynote address was given by Terry Stotler, Chief of Voluntary Services at the Martinsburg Veterans Administration Medical Center, detailing the myriad of services the VA provides to support the veterans in the tri-state area of northwest Virginia, northern West Virginia, and western Maryland.
Following a musket salute fired by the SAR Musket Squad and renditions of ‘God Bless America’ and ‘Taps’ by Charles Hunter, SAR members stood alongside dual members Bryan Buck (Fort Harrison), Dave Cook, and Jim Cordes (Fairfax Resolves), participating in the ceremony and bringing history to life.
As we remember our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day, we recognize the historical journey from Decoration Day to Memorial Day and the nationwide observance it has grown into today. This commemoration at the Winchester National Cemetery symbolizes a steadfast tradition and a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Traffic Charges filed after car strikes Downtown Front Royal Pavilion support beam
The below photos show the result of a motorist striking one of the Front Royal Village Commons/Gazebo area Pavilion support beams on Thursday, May 25th. The time of the accident was listed on the resulting traffic summons as 2:27 p.m. (14:27). The driver was identified at the scene by responding Front Royal Police as local resident Elizabeth Smith. She was issued a summons for “Driving a vehicle which is not under control; Reckless Driving.” No injuries were reported as a result of the accident. Smith has a pending mid-July traffic court date in Warren County General District Court. As of publication, the pavilion remained cordoned off pending permanent repairs.
Circle of Kindness: R-MA cadets and senior citizens forge a bond of encouragement
It’s often said that what goes around comes around. This idiom recently played out in an unexpected and heartwarming way for the students of Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA).
This past February, the academy, a co-ed private boarding school for grades 6-12 located just an hour from Washington, D.C., participated in a unique initiative to spread kindness. The initiative, spearheaded by the local organization We See You Warren County, was designed to inspire residents to write letters filled with encouragement, gratitude, and hope. Randolph-Macon Academy hosted these LOVE letters during Valentine’s week, with the academy’s cadets penning thoughtful missives to the seniors at the Warren County Senior Center.
Little did these cadets know this act of kindness would soon be reciprocated.
In their final week of school, a time typically filled with anticipation and anxiety, the graduating cadets of R-MA received a surprise: a flood of kind and encouraging words from the very seniors they had written to earlier in the year.
The cadets, graduating from a school renowned for its superior university-prep curriculum and elite Air Force JROTC program, were overcome with emotion at the gesture. This was a significant way to wrap up what has been one of the most memorable years of their academic journey.
Last year, R-MA celebrated the graduation of 59 students from the Class of 2022, all of whom secured university acceptances and together amassed over $16.6 million in scholarships. This year’s graduating class, buoyed by the seniors’ heartfelt messages, looks forward to taking their next steps into the world, carrying with them lessons in kindness, humility, and mutual respect.
This delightful exchange between the cadets and senior citizens demonstrates the strong bonds that can be built within a community, even between the youngest and oldest members. It reminds us all of the power of simple gestures of kindness and the joy of giving and receiving.
Find out more about the Randolph-Macon Academy experience by visiting their website: RMA.edu.
Sheriff’s Office to provide more transparent information to County residents
Sheriff Mark Butler is pleased to announce that the Warren County Sheriff’s Office is the 1st agency in the Commonwealth to make Citizen Connect available to a community. Citizen Connect is an application from Southern Software, Inc. that provides a host of services for our community to see.
This is an opportunity to increase transparency, provide more convenient customer service and ensure better communication with our residents. S
Starting May 30, residents will be able to receive automated crime notifications using the free Citizen Connect website. You can sign up for these services through our website. This Application provides the following online services:
• Daily Reports – A listing of Arrest, Incident, and Accident Reports will be available to the public. This is what is commonly referred to as the “police blotter” and will keep residents better informed as to the incidents around their homes, businesses, or routes of travel.
• Incident Reports – An abbreviated report may be downloaded by Incident Number, Date Range, Name, or Location. Please note that there will be no narrative included. Persons wishing to obtain a complete report will still be required to file a Freedom of Information request with our office.
• Wanted Persons – A list of the most wanted people will be made available to the public in this searchable database.
• Missing Persons – A list of active missing persons reports will be posted. Once located, these reports will be closed and can no longer be seen on the website. This will be helpful in keeping the public aware of endangered people, with the intent to locate them quickly.
• Anonymous Tip Line – Allows residents to report a tip without leaving their personal information.
• Submit a Report – This allows our citizens to submit non-emergency reports that do not require a response from a Deputy immediately. These include damage to property, lost property, and harassing phone calls.
Statement of Commonwealth’s Attorney Bell on Case Filing regarding Sheriff Butler
Shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, under the above headline Warren County Commonwealth Attorney John Bell issued the following press release regarding an official inquiry into the credibility of Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler as a potential prosecution witness moving forward. This is that release in its entirety:
“Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell issued the following statement:
“This office has received a number of inquiries in response to a recent online article at theshawreport.org which discusses, in part, a filing made by this office in a pending Circuit Court case involving Sheriff Butler. All prosecutors have a legal and ethical duty to disclose exculpatory evidence about a witness, that is, any information that casts doubt on the truthfulness of that witness. It is a painful duty when that witness is a law enforcement officer. It is a particularly painful duty when that officer is your elected Sheriff.
“We were obligated to make such a disclosure in the case (click for linked material) of Commonwealth v Hutzell, CR22-533, a Circuit Court case in which Sheriff Butler was the arresting officer. The disclosure consists of the results of two Internal Affairs investigations conducted by the Town of Herndon Police Department when Sheriff Butler was employed there as an Officer in 2019. The Town of Herndon concluded that then-Officer Butler falsified statements in two different official Police report about two separate incidents.
“As a result of this information, we are unable to call Sheriff Butler to the witness stand as a credible witness. We are currently evaluating all cases where Sheriff Butler is a potential witness to see if the prosecutions can proceed without him. There will also be a review of some prior cases to evaluate the impact of his participation.”
Ukrainian Catholic Church of Saints Joachim and Anna to be consecrated in Front Royal by Archbishop Gudziak
On Sunday, June 4, Front Royal is going to be honored by a visit from the Most Reverend Borys Gudziak, the Metropolitan-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy (archdiocese) of Philadelphia. The Archbishop will be in town to consecrate the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Saints Joachim and Anna, located at 1396 Linden Street in Front Royal.
Saints Joachim and Anna began in 2015 as a mission of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, D.C., and acquired the Linden Street property in November 2021.
The parish, which currently has 41 registered households, is served by Administrator Fr. Robert Hitchens, originally of Pennsylvania, and parochial vicar Fr. Andrii Chornopyskyi, originally of Ukraine, who take turns driving out from D. C. Divine Liturgy is Sunday at 10:30 a.m., preceded by Confession.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is an Eastern Catholic church in communion with the Pope of Rome. Byzantine Christianity was established among the Ukrainians in 988 A.D. by St. Volodуmуr. The Ukrainian Catholic Church has been in communion with Rome since the Union of Brest (1596). From 1946 until 1989, however, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was illegal and persecuted by the communist regime, as Ukraine had been annexed by the Soviet Union. Archbishop Borys was born in 1960 in New York to parents who were World War II refugees from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Catholic Church first arrived in the United States in 1884, following the first Ukrainian diaspora. The current war in Ukraine has sent over 8 million people worldwide as refugees and over 5 million internally displaced. Over 250,000 have been allowed into the United States.
Here in Front Royal, only about 20% of the parish of Saints Joachim and Anna have a personal connection with the “old country.” It, like other Eastern Catholic Churches, is growing because many are attracted to its ancient traditions, the beautiful Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which was first written down around the fourth century A.D., and its vibrant community life.
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