The Easton City Planning Commission Wednesday discussed changes to the city’s zoning definitions that would allow it to regulate cash for gold shops, fortune telling establishments and stores that sell drug paraphernalia.
“These are things that have been brought to our attention (by the public) for us to take a look at,” said Becky Bradley, the city's planning director.
Defining specific regulations to deal with these businesses could limit the places they operate, hours of operation, the size of the operation, etc.
Bradley said that there have been inklings that the city could see a small influx of cash for gold and fortune telling/paranormal services type uses soon. She said there have been rumors that some local cash for gold businesses could want to expand in the city. Three cash for gold businesses already exist downtown and would not be impacted by the changes in the law because they are grandfathered in.
Additionally, within the past six months three businesses dealing in paranormal services have been formally proposed to the city’s professionals, according to Bradley. Those plans were withdrawn but she claimed that Easton should be pro-active in trying to deal with those types of businesses.
“Do you want one of these shops in Centre Square?” she asked Planning Commission Chairman Charles Elliott.
There are laws on the books that allow the city to regulate these activities but they aren’t specific enough, Bradley said. By law, the city cannot specifically prohibit cash for gold.
Those establishments are currently allowed under the city’s rules for pawn shops. Those rules could be challenged, Bradley said, because a cash for gold establishment could make a case that it is a separate type of business from a pawn shop. “It [our ordinance] doesn’t say ‘cash for gold.’ We want to put clarity in that,” she said.
The state has rules for fortune telling, but they’re not zoning oriented and provide little direction as to where the places can locate. Commission members suggested limiting fortune telling or paranormal services like ghost detection to second-floor uses.
“Let’s define them and put them someplace,” said Commission Member Rona Shipman.
Bradley said that a change regulating stores that sell drug paraphernalia was also desirable. She said many local stores have recently increased their sales and displays of controversial items like bongs.
Commission Member Robert Sun claimed a proliferation of these type of shops can give a community a bad image.
“When you see those places, it sort of perpetuates the image that there are a lot of users in the community,” he said.
Commission members instructed Bradley to move forward with drafting the new definitions for consideration at a future meeting.