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Board of Selectmen Public Statement about Firearms Businesses

Post Date: 08/28/2019 6:24 PM
Many questions have been asked about the possible licensing and operation of a gun shop at 224 Bussey Street in East Dedham.  While the Town frequently refrains from comment on pending matters, the sheer volume of interest in this issue suggests that the community will benefit from information concerning the status of the administrative process.
 
As many of you are aware, an on-line petition began circulating approximately two weeks ago in opposition to the proposed gun shop.  While the document has no legal significance, the message sent was clear - Dedham residents are concerned about a possible gun shop in East Dedham.  Regulation of firearms businesses is a complicated subject, being reviewed all over the county by entities both for and against gun sales, by lawyers, by local, state and federal legislatures, and by the health community.  A speedy answer on just how to regulate gun shops is simply not possible.  The Board of Selectmen has limited direct jurisdiction over this issue, other than whether to include an article on a Town Meeting warrant for a zoning change.  Nevertheless, the Board of Selectmen, as the Town's chief elected official, has referred this matter to appropriate boards for their review, and, through the Town Manager and department heads, provided the necessary support for a thorough review process.
 
First, please be aware that the Zoning Board of Appeals met on July 17, 2019 to act on an application for a special permit to allow the applicant refurbish and customize firearms on site at 224 Bussey Street.  Following testimony from the applicant, feedback from attendees, and questions from members of the ZBA, the applicant was encouraged to, and did withdraw that application. 
 
Understanding the community concern on this matter, the Board of Selectmen, to move the subject forward, met on August 8, 2019, to discuss the matter and made a referral to the Board of Health in accord with the Board of Health's broad function to protect the public health.  The Board of Health must exercise due diligence on the subject before taking action.  Such diligence includes reviewing existing scientific research, scholarly articles, and obtaining input from the public.  The Board of Health has begun this work, and will be posting a listening session later in September.  The Board of Health has jurisdiction to promulgate regulations to protect the public health.  As such, the Board of Health has not taken any position on the issue as of yet so as to avoid possible allegations of bias and/or predisposition.  The Board of Health will provide notice of the time and date of its listening session as soon as selected.
 
The Planning Board met on August 8, 2019 to discuss zoning of gun shops in the Town and heard input from many residents.  Following that meeting, the Town Planner worked on draft zoning for firearms businesses, which zoning proposals were presented to the Board of Selectmen at the Board's August 15, 2019 meeting.  The Board of Selectmen, in accord with G.L. c.40A, s.5, formally referred such draft to the Planning Board for its review.  The Planning Board, in turn, is required by law to publish notice of the time, date and place of its public hearing on the subject, which has been scheduled for September 12, 2019.  The public hearing will provide an opportunity for Dedham residents and business owners to provide input concerning the zoning proposal.  Ultimately, zoning cannot be changed without approval of Town Meeting.  Therefore, the proposed zoning recommended by the Planning Board will need to appear on a town meeting warrant and will require approval by a 2/3 vote.
 
In order to operate, the proposed gun shop will need to secure additional approvals from the Town and satisfy any applicable zoning requirements.  As is commonly the case, applicants for projects meet with relevant department heads to discuss the project and approval process.  These meetings are not open to the public, and are not determinative of the outcome of any application.  While the Police Chief and Assistant Building Commissioner have met with the applicant as of this writing, no permits or approvals have been granted.  Note that in deciding whether to approve or deny such applications, the Town's discretion is limited by law.  Nevertheless, all requirements must be satisfied before the gun shop may operate.
 
The Board of Selectmen has scheduled a listening session for September 5, 2019.  The Board will provide available updates at that time and looks forward to the opportunity to hear from residents and business owners.  Be reminded that the Board’s jurisdiction is limited, however, particularly where there is a pending application.  As such, the Board will not be weighing in as a Board on any pending application or taking a vote at this listening session on anything relative to gun shops.  Instead, this is a forum for the community to provide input and ideas. Knowing the breadth and depth of feelings about this issue, we will, of course, expect discourse at this listening session to be civil and respectful to all.  To facilitate a productive and useful meeting, our Town Moderator has agreed to preside at this listening session.
 
If you are unable to attend the meeting, please feel free to e-mail the Board of Selectmen at freshideas@dedham-ma.gov with a subject line reference to "Firearms Businesses"; understand that we will be collecting this input but will not be responding to individual e-mails on this topic.   In the interim, please check our FAQs, which will be updated as information becomes available.  We thank you for your patience and involvement in this important matter.
 
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