Easton's South Side could see a new smoke shop after planners' approval
EASTON, Pa. — A new smoke shop may be headed to a South Side strip mall after getting the go-ahead from Easton Planning Commission on Wednesday.
But it took two votes to get the board's recommendation, and it still needs the city Zoning Hearing Board's approval to proceed.
The commission heard a request for a special exception for retail specialty at 136-48 W. St. Joseph St., which Krunal Rana intends to turn into a smoke shop known as Puff Genie.
“It really should go with something one way or the other, whether we're recommending it or not. So we had a second motion which recommended the approval."Easton Planning Commissioner Ken Greene
According to Planning Administrator Carl Manges, the vacant spot once served as a meeting spot for the Democratic Party, and, prior to that housed a nail salon.
“The applicant has indicated they want to sell e-cigarettes, vapes, cigars, hookahs, hookah flavorings, CBD, kratom, bongs, pipes, grinders and soft drinks,” which is not permitted, but could be allowed via a special exception, Manges said.
The proposed business would be just 225 feet from another retail specialty establishment — Chubby’s of South Side, which sells fried chicken, beer and some tobacco products.
That means it falls within a 1,000-foot zone in which another such shop cannot be established, thus requiring the exception, he said.
Different type of business
Attorney Andrew Ralston, representing Rana, said that appeared moot, based on the wares Chubby’s sells.
“This is not a low-traffic area, it is not an area that has ever, at least in the recent past, been anything other than a retail zone, where there have been a variety of businesses," Ralston said.
"The specialty shop in question, again, is chicken and beer. They do sell some tobacco products, but they're certainly not focused on a tobacco shop like my clients are looking at.”Attorney Andrew Ralston
"The specialty shop in question, again, is chicken and beer. They do sell some tobacco products, but they're certainly not focused on a tobacco shop like my clients are looking at.”
Answering questions, Rana explained to the board the product kratom — a plant that can be used as an intoxicant producing effects similar to an opiate with some stimulant-like effects.
He also said he likely would add games of skill, such as video poker or slots, to his shop in the future.
A second vote
Planners initially voted to not recommend that the zoning hearing board grant the special exception, but a second vote passed with that recommendation.
“It was going to go to the zoning board anyway, but it can go either with our recommendation or without,” planning commission member Ken Greene said.
The planning commission is responsible for providing a recommendation, Greene said. The zoning hearing board doesn't "really leave it up to themselves to recommend that kind of approval. It really has to be the planning commission.”
“So that motion to deny it was defeated. And our practice has been that if we don't then have a subsequent motion, it basically goes with nothing from us," he said.
"And it really should go with something one way or the other, whether we're recommending it or not. So we had a second motion which recommended the approval.”
But the zoning hearing board will decide the fate of Puff Genie, which likely will require a variance if approved.