MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Morgantown Planning Commission recently tabled a request from a local group to change where firearms and ammunition can be sold within city limits.
Protect Morgantown opposes the Big Daddy Gun store slated to open on University Avenue at “The Deck” and has asked for some changes to city zoning code for retail firearms locations. The group wants the commission to add a definition for a firearms sales establishment. That definition would be an “establishment engaged in the sale, manufacture for sale, or repair of firearms, ammunition and ammunition components, and hunting and shooting equipment.”
The proposal would allow the businesses in shopping centers, but would require permission to locate in neighborhoods or service/business districts.
In response, Morgantown Director of Developmental Services Rickie Yeager offered two options rather than a recommendation.
The first option adds the word “lease,” the option for customers to lease as well as sell firearms. The first option also removes the words “hunting or shooting equipment.” It also removes the option for conditional use in neighborhoods, but allows the businesses in shopping centers and business districts by conditional use.
The second option includes all of the first option, but adds a straight line “incompatible use separation” of 500-feet from schools, medical centers, parks, libraries, churches, day care facilities, educational institutions and synagogues.
Morgantown deputy mayor and planning commission member Danielle Trumble said members of commission want to tailor zoning code to the current and future needs of the city.
“Staff gave us a lot of information about what other cities like Charleston or Huntington are doing, but we want to make sure we’re doing something that makes sense for Morgantown, not just following the lead of other municipalities.”
According to Trumble, the commission plans deep dive into how many gun stores are operating in the city, and for how long. Understanding that information will help them understand how neighborhoods where the stores have existed together.
“Take a look at what zones firearms establishments are already operating in,” Trumble said. “How many, which ones are close to schools or which ones would be effected by any changes we would make.”
While the group proposing the changes used the location on University Avenue and some statistics from recent mass shootings, the argument against was heavily weighted on marketing tactics, imagery and media appearances by the owners of Big Daddy Guns.
The commission wants to ensure changes are fair, reasonable, well thought out and durable enough to serve the community long term.
“I’m sure everyone on the planning commission and everyone on council has their own personal feelings about this establishment,” Trumble said. “But at the end of the day, if they are a legally operating business there’s nothing we can do about that. We can only change things moving forward.”
There is no timetable for the review of information about existing zoning code and retail locations, but Trumble said there will be public comment opportunities.
“At which point maybe we can start talking about what changes would make sense or what kind of regulations would make sense,” Trumble said.
Others that make up the nine member board also want more time, information and public input before voting any proposed change.
“I want to stop and think proactively about where we want our businesses located and what we want our city to look like moving forward,” Trumble said. “And really look toward the future and not what’s currently happening.”
Florida-based Big Daddy Guns still plans to open the 15,000-square foot retail location in the coming weeks.