Tyrone approves gun shop by unanimous vote
The vote at the May 3 meeting of the Tyrone Town Council over zoning changes that included guns shops as a conditional use of C-2 (Highway Commercial) zoning came with unanimous approval. The agenda topic was essentially a reconsideration of the previous zoning district change from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to C-2 and the inclusion of guns shops as a conditional use in C-2.
The meeting Thursday night last more than three hours and drew more than 180 people, many of whom are residents of the nearby Southampton subdivision. Twenty people spoke in favor of the zoning changes and 24 spoke in opposition to the gun shop and indoor gun range proposed for the south side of the Publix shopping center on the west side of Ga. Highway 74. The location is approximately 218 feet east of the Southampton subdivision and 400 feet from the nearest residence.
The approval came with a number of conditions. Among those was the requirement to construct a four-foot concrete wall that will extend approximately 65 feet and will be situated between the gun shop and Partner’s Pizza. The condition was one of those stated on numerous occasions by residents as a concern due to the potential for the accidental discharge of a firearm in the parking lot.
Comments both pro and con echoed those made at the previous council meeting and two planning commission meetings where the rezoning and conditional use topics had been discussed and, at the council meeting, approved on a 3-2 vote.
Among those opposed, an overwhelming majority said they were gun advocates or gun owners. And nearly all said they supported the idea of having a local gun shop. The problem, they said, was with the intended location on a vacant piece of property near the subdivision on the south side of the shopping center.
Mayor Eric Dial prior to the vote said, “We believe our hands are tied. We didn’t choose this location. We’re trying to alleviate any problems with (the gun shop) being there.”
Though Dial did not elaborate further, his comment was clear enough. If the council had decided to remove gun shops from the C-2 zoning category it would potentially open the door for property owner Phil Seay to litigate the town’s decision. That is what occurred several years ago when Seay wanted to put the Publix shopping center along Hwy. 74. The town turned him down and he successfully sued the city. Seay noted that fact at a recent council meeting.
The reconsideration of the rezoning and conditional use items came after a number of Southampton subdivision residents filed suit against the town on May 2 stating that, “approving the allowance of a gun shop as a conditional use in a C-2 (Commercial Highway) zoning district and also the allowance of a shooting range as an accessory use to a gun shop on the subject property and seek(s) a declaratory judgment to declare these rezoning decisions to be a manifest abuse of rezoning power and therefore illegal and void.”
The four counts specified in the suit include violations of the state zoning procedures law, violations of the town’s zoning ordinance, a conflict of interest and potential violation of ethical requirements on the part of a member of the Tyrone Planning Commission and a manifest abuse of zoning power.
Plaintiffs in the suit include Southampton subdivision residents Leila Richardson, Wayne Mason, Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, Larry Bennet, Donna Ballard, Natalie Milner, Michelle Williams and Thomas Redd and Southampton Plaza shopping center business owner LaGuana Albarracin.
The plaintiffs are also appealing the rezoning decision to amend the town’s zoning map that changed the PUD district to a C-2 and seeks to have the rezoning decision void because it was conducted in violation of state law.
The PUD district has not existed as an official zoning district since 1995. The town recently completed an update of the zoning ordinance, part of which involved a decrease in the number of zoning classifications that exist throughout the town, according to town records. The rezoning from PUD to C-2 was intended to serve as a next step in the process by transitioning all properties zoned PUD to C-2, town records said.
The properties situated on the east and west sides of Hwy. 74 were largely developed under the old PUD classification.
Indoor gun ranges were previously allowed in the C-3 zoning district, the town’s most intense commercial zoning category. The amendment of the zoning ordinance in October 2011 eliminated the C-3 district. The new C-2 district contains the uses previously allowed in C-3. The town apparently addressed the suit by re-advertising and posting signage for the Planning Commission and Town Council public hearings.
Pertaining to another aspect of the suit, Planning Commissioner Chris Wigginton, whose company did work for proposed gun shop project, did not attend the planning commission meeting last week when that body reconsidered and voted to recommend the matter for approval by the council. Town attorney Dennis Davenport at the planning commission meeting said the town’s position is that a gun shop is a retail business. Davenport also noted that he would be responding to the citizens’ law suit on May 4.
A number of residents at each of the public hearings on the issue said that gun shops and gun ranges would be better suited in areas zoned for industrial purposes.
As for industrial-zoned property as a site for gun shops, such properties do exist inside the town limits. One of those properties is situated between the Southampton subdivision and Hwy. 74 between Carriage Oaks Drive and Peggy Lane.