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Watertown head shop could prompt future zoning changes

Updated: Mar. 3, 2021 at 4:55 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - When it comes to where a new Watertown head shop is doing business, it’s upsetting those who help drug addicts. They want zoning changes so something like this can’t happen again and their timing may be perfect.

A Watertown committee has made it its mission to modernize the city’s zoning rules.

“We haven’t rewritten our zoning code since the late 60s,” said City Council Member Ryan Henry-Wilkinson, who’s part of the zoning rewrite committee.

He says they’re almost a year into their work paid for by federal grant money.

“It was a part of the comprehensive plan to rewrite the zoning code,” he said.

This late in the game, the group has a new issue to tackle. Drug recovery leaders are up in arms about Royal Convenience & Smoke Shop.

It’s a head shop that sells vaping and tobacco products as well as smoking accessories that could be used for marijuana.

The business is near the Watertown Urban Mission and the Alliance for Better Communities. Both groups offer help to drug addicts.

Some are concerned the shop could tempt people trying to get clean. It appears city lawmakers have been listening.

“I understand where the Urban Mission is coming from. That type of business does, in a sense, go against what they are trying to do,” said City Council Member Sarah Compo.

Henry-Wilkinson says the issue is on his radar too.

“Now that’s it been brought to our attention, I think it’s something the rewrite committee could look to address in the future,” he said.

It’s important to note the city’s current zoning code allows the shop to be there and a rewrite won’t force Royal Convenience to close.

“They would still be grandfathered in. It would just stop it from happening the next time,” said Henry-Wilkinson.

He also says finding a solution may be tricky.

“As soon as you start doing those carve outs, you can’t be within 500 feet of a certain organization. Just because of the way the radiuses are going to line up, you might preclude certain business in the future from even going into downtown,” he said.

We’ve asked Royal Convenience management for comment on community concerns, which it hasn’t provided yet.

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