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City updating permitting process, looking to regulate vape shops

MORGANTOWN — The city of Morgantown is about a month away from rolling out a new online portal through which residents can file and track permit and license requests, pay fees and interact with city staff.

During a Tuesday presentation before Morgantown City Council, GIS Analyst Marvin Davis said some 49 different applications have been loaded into the Cityworks system, which is currently slated for an April 23 public launch.   

“The key of this is that this system is meant for us to improve our business practices and be able to assist citizens in a more timely and streamlined fashion,” Davis said. 

Applicants can set up a free account, pay any required fees and manage all requests from a public landing page.  

Davis said the ability for city staff to communicate directly with applicants is a major advantage of the online system. 

“You can go to your account. You’ll see the status and the stage that it’s on. What review it’s sitting on, who to contact and … if there is an issue, you’ll see why there’s an issue. There will be a comment from staff at that stage of what they need to move it along.”  

Further, the Cityworks process will allow the city to identify if and where there are bottlenecks within its departments.

While Davis said residents will still be able to file paper applications and pay fees in person, that process will be updated as well. 

In other city news, an ordinance barring any new tobacco and vape shops from opening downtown may be on the move. 

As reported in January, the city is eyeing a zoning code change that would define the “smoke shop/tobacco store” use and limit such uses to B-5 districts (shopping center) by right and B-2 (service business) by conditional use, meaning it would require the review and approval of the Morgantown Board of Zoning Appeals.   

The city’s downtown is zoned B-4 (general business). 

Under the proposed ordinance, “smoke shop/tobacco store” would be defined as: Any premises that engages in the display, sale, distribution, delivery, offering, furnishing or marketing of electronic smoking devices, electronic smoking liquid, tobacco, tobacco products or tobacco paraphernalia. 

The law includes a condition that mandates smoke shop/tobacco stores must be at least 1,500 feet from one another as well as schools or day care centers.  

The law differentiates between a smoke shop and grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores (not including cannabis dispensaries) or similar retail that carries some of these items as ancillary sales. 

City Attorney Ryan Simonton said the ordinance is modeled on similar laws enacted in Charleston, Huntington and Fayette County. 

Council moved the proposed law to the Morgantown Planning Commission for review.