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You are here: Home Section Table Around Town Gun and Vape Shops: Should They Be Permitted in Scarsdale? And If So, Where?
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Gun and Vape Shops: Should They Be Permitted in Scarsdale? And If So, Where?

gunshopThe Law Committee on the Board of Trustees met on Tuesday to deliberate on proposed changes to the zoning of gun and vape shops in Scarsdale and later met with the Sustainability Committee to address the issue of clear cutting of trees in development lots.

After a gun store opened in Harrison in late 2016, many Westchester communities, including Scarsdale, have been taking precautionary measures to restrict the ability for gun shop owners to open stores in their municipalities. The recent vaping crisis in Scarsdale, however, has emboldened the board to make the proposed gun store provisions also apply to vape shops. The provisions are based on maximizing the distance between gun stores and schools, daycare centers, and religious facilities.

The board has proposed that gun and vape shops be strictly limited to the VCR 1.0 Zone. This zone encompasses a tiny portion of Garth Road between the Freightway and Eastchester border. The board proposed restrictive zoning over a blanket ban of these stores due to fear of serious litigation that could ensue since it’s difficult to limit what a store can sell. Former Village Attorney Wayne Esannason compared these stores to the adult entertainment stores in New York City. The city could not enforce an outright ban on these stores, so instead they took measures to severely restrict the locations in which these stores can be located. New Village Attorney Angela Martin also added that a California municipality did implement a gun store ban and was brought to court over the issue, but was ultimately upheld by the court in their ban. She stressed that Scarsdale wouldn’t necessarily see an identical outcome if a similar ban was implemented.

The definition proposed for “firearm”, which was based on the federal definition, excluded antique firearms. Trustee Ross pointed out that antique guns should be subject to the same restrictions as standard firearms, as they can still cause harm to others. The board agreed with Trustee Ross, and the change was made.

The board proceeded to a discussion of vape shops. Multiple stores in Scarsdale, including the soon-to-reopen 7/11, already sell e-cigarettes/vaping products. This posed a serious quandary for the board: would the new zoning law apply to both new and existing stores looking to sell vape products, or could exisiting stores still sell vapes under pre-existing and non-conforming use? Trustee Ross expressed concern over the ability to enforce a new law on pre-existing stores and potential litigation that could ensue. He instead suggested that the village might be able to prohibit further expansion of vape products within these stores (i.e no additional square footage of display/stock). Ms. Martin disagreed, saying that as long as sufficient time was allocated for these stores to phase out the vape products, the law could be passed without the non-conforming use policy.

After debating the feasibility of the pre-existing and non-conforming use of vapes/e-cigarettes, Trustee Arest commented on the proposed law as a whole. While he believes the intent is admirable, he questioned the effectiveness of any law the board can’t fully enforce. Trustee Arest recently met with Jack Waxman, the former SHS senior who created an anti-juuling documentary and has been outspoken on the issue of vaping in Scarsdale. According to Waxman, Scarsdale students are getting their vape paraphernalia online, in neighboring areas, and with fake ids, so Arrest wondered if the board was truly making any impact whatsoever. Mayor Hochvert put it best: “We can’t change the world around us, but we can send a signal”.

Trustee Arest also took issue with the proposed zoning of the gun/vape shops. While the VCR 1.0 Zone isn’t near any Scarsdale schools or religious centers, it is located only one block away from a nursery school in Eastchester. Trustee Finger pointed out that Scarsdale has very little retail space relative to towns like Eastchester, and while it may not be ideal, any other zone would have closer proximity to Scarsdale schools and religious facilities.

The conversation proceeded to address the issue of storage and safety in both gun and vape shops. The board agreed that bulk storage cannot be located in the display case of gun stores in case of a robbery. The board also agreed to take out a security provision that stopped minors and people without gun licenses from entering a gun store as it could pose legal problems and would be difficult to enforce. The board found the e-cigarete storage provision, which states that “public access to [e-cigarette storage area] should be limited,” to be a bit unclear and asked Ms. Martin to further define “limited access" moving forward.

Noah Kroloff used the public comment period to express support for the board’s proactive efforts in stopping the spread of gun stores, but asked if they could potentially pursue an outright ban. Trustee Veron said that the board will come to a conclusion first on the proposed zoning limitations and stated that an outright ban would be legally disastrous before voting on any change to the current law.

The Law Committee will consider all comments and decide whether or not to proceed with a vote on the gun/vape shop restrictions.

Immediately following the gun/vape shop meeting, the Law and Sustainability Committees met to discuss potential changes to the village tree laws. The goal of any amendment to the current law is to resolve the issue of clear cutting, or the mass removal of trees from a specific plot of land.

The board put forward two proposals that would require trees which were cut down to be replaced or the owners of the property would have to make a payment to the Tree Preservation Fund. Both options are similar, but Option B does not allow more than 240” of aggregate DBH (the diameter of the tree trunk) to be removed on a given property.

Trustee Veron warned that the proposed plans might have unintended consequences. Someone might need to remove a tree or two for safety reasons, and this law would hold them to the same standards as developers who want to clear cut entire properties. She believes the current plan doesn’t target clear cutting enough, as the fine for not replacing a tree would be minimal to a large scale developer.

Trustee Crandall stressed that there should perhaps be a provision in the law to encourage planting, so if a tree can’t be preserved, a new tree can replace it and eventually fill the environmental role the former tree held.

During public comment, one resident shared her story of a developer that clear cut the trees in an adjacent property, resulting in the loss of a shade canopy and an increase in floodwater during storms. Other public commenters expressed similar sentiments to Trustee Veron, and want the new law to target developers and not infringe on current owner’s private property rights.

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