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City won't restrict tattoo, gun shops

Planning Commission member Jim Stone says restricting the location of the shops would amount to a "death sentance" for legitimat

Planning Commission member Jim Stone says restricting the location of the shops would amount to a "death sentance" for legitimat

July 25, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Planning Commission on Wednesday informally rejected a proposal to restrict the location of future gun shops, tattoo and body piercing parlors and pawn shops to regional shopping center districts.

Restricting the location of those businesses would amount to banning them completely, which is unfair because they are legitimate businesses providing a useful service, commission member Jim Stone said.

Stone said he did not think shopping centers would allow a pawn shop to be built on their properties, so the proposed restriction would have amounted to a "death sentence."

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Those types of businesses are currently permitted in all commercial districts except the neighborhood commercial district, Senior Planner Kathleen Maher said.

The proposal would have meant those businesses in the future could no longer be established in the downtown or the Hagerstown HotSpot area, Maher said.

Properties zoned as regional shopping center districts include the Centre at Hagerstown, the Long Meadow Shopping Center, Hagerstown Commons and Valley Park Commons, Maher said.

The restrictions were suggested by the city's Community Revitalization Committee, which has been analyzing downtown to see what types of businesses may create a nuisance or cause a negative image for the area, Maher said.

The committee also suggested tattoo and body piercing parlors and pawn shops be at least 500 feet from other tattoo and body piercing parlors and pawn shops.

When those businesses are in close proximity to each other, they can attract people who stay nearby, which can result in loitering and other potential criminal activity, Maher said.

But that is not the fault of the business owners, Stone and other commission members said.

Future businesses of those types would also need to get approval from the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals, Maher said.

The Planning Commission did not object to the suggestions, which will go forward to a future public hearing as one of many proposed amendments to Hagerstown's zoning ordinance.

Any adopted changes would not apply to existing businesses.

Maher said the committee began talking about the restrictions in June after a businessman, Emil Tabassi, filed papers to open a gun shop at 604 N. Potomac Ave., which is in the HotSpot area.

At a June 18 Hagerstown City Council meeting, representatives of the Neighborhoods First Broadway-North Group expressed concerns about the gun shop moving in and asked why there was nothing in place to block a business from moving into that area.

In a phone interview before Wednesday's meeting, group chairman Greg Hannigan said he supports the proposed change limiting the businesses to shopping centers.

He and other group members are not opposed to the sale of guns but think a shopping center is a better place to sell them than a neighborhood, Hannigan said.

Tabassi, the owner of the gun shop, has been unable to be reached for comment.

Manfred Russell, who owns and operates Russell's Gun Emporium at 919 Pennsylvania Ave., said he opposed limiting the businesses to shopping centers.

He said the proposal is unfair and discriminatory as a result of anti-gun sentiment in the media.

Russell and Hannigan were not present at Wednesday's meeting.

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