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City Neighborhoods
Limits sought on city gun shops

Loophole allowed sales in many neighborhoods

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

By Timothy McNulty, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Proposed changes to city zoning rules would allow new gun shops to open only in industrial areas of the city, not in neighborhood commercial districts.

Under a loophole that was mistakenly opened when the city's 40-year-old zoning code was revamped in 1999, licensed gun sales are still allowed in neighborhood shopping districts like Carson Street in the South Side or East Ohio Street in the North Side.

A bill set for debate by Pittsburgh City Council today would close that opening. New gun dealers to the city -- who sell firearms retail, wholesale or by mail-order -- would be forced to settle Downtown or in industrial parts of the city that are mostly riverfront areas with little residential activity.

Even in those industrial areas, dealerships would have to be 500 feet from parks, schools, recreation centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and religious institutions before they could be approved by the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment.

For the first time, new dealerships would be barred from neighborhood business districts, which the new zoning code calls "local neighborhood commercial" districts, or LNCs.

The few existing firearms businesses in the city with certified occupancy permits, some of which are already located in neighborhood districts, would not be affected by the changes.

For years the city's land use laws treated gun shops like all other businesses. A 1994 city law created a special category for firearms businesses, and allowed them in some neighborhood business districts, but not others.

When the rewritten zoning code was adopted in 1999, and zoning districts were converted from the old code to the new one, the city mistakenly allowed gun shops in all neighborhood business districts again.

It was an "inadvertent extension of where [gun shops] could be," city Planning Director Susan Golumb said yesterday.

The planning department sent the latest firearms changes to council along with a raft of other housekeeping changes to the zoning code, covering issues like signage regulations, residential fencing standards and advertising on public kiosks. They are set for a preliminary vote today.

Gun shops would be prohibited in LNCs but allowed in seven other zoning districts: Golden Triangle, Downtown Riverfront, Neighborhood Industrial, Urban Neighborhood Commercial, Highway Commercial, General Industrial and Urban Industrial.

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