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Still Waiting on the Judge

Glenn Yeager, II, was served notice to cease and desist the sale of firearms at Valley Outdoors in Hurricane on July 7. He responded by filing suit against the Putnam County Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Office of Planning and Infrastructure. Circuit Court Judge Philip Stowers ruled that Valley Outdoors could continue to sell firearms pending a ruling on the cease and desist order.

In court documents Yeager stated that he borrowed and invested more than $3 million to finance building costs and inventory purchases for Valley Outdoors because Timothy Smith told him in December 2020 that sale of firearms in a zoned unincorporated area of Putnam County was permitted so long as he would not be operating a pawnshop. Yeager stated that Smith advised him to pursue his plan to sell firearms at 3034 Mt. Vernon Road in Hurricane. At the time, Timothy Smith was the Director of Planning.

Following the meeting, Smith engaged in actions which culminated in text changes to Putnam’s zoning ordinances on January 12, 2021. The text changes made “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms” an allowed use in C-1 zoned area upon issuance of a Special Permit. 3034 Mt. Vernon Road is zoned C-1. Prior to the text change, “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms” was an allowed use in C-1 zoned areas without a Special Permit provided that all other requirements were met. One requirement which existed both prior to and after the text change that was not met was the operation of “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms” within 300 feet of a residence.

In his suit, Yeager argues that Valley Outdoors is not a “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms” business and, therefore, not subject to the restriction. Yeager’s filing stated that Valley Outdoors is not a “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms” business because it does not operate as a pawnshop. Yeager cites a section of the text of Article 150.02 that defines “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms” as the sale of retail goods, firearms, and the operation of a pawnshop.

At some point in time, Judge Stowers will issue a ruling. It could be a landmark ruling because the only mention of “firearms” in Putnam County’s Zoning Ordinances is in reference to “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms.” Judge Stowers will be required to decide if the intent of the ordinance is to restrict the sale of used weed eaters and firearms jointly or the sale of used weed eaters alone or the sale of firearms alone.

Yeager will be vindicated if Judge Stowers rules that “Retail Sale/Pawnshop/Firearms” only applies to businesses that sell both used weed eaters and firearms. Such a ruling would allow firearms sales wherever retail sales are allowed in C-1.

Still waiting for a ruling.

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