WESTFORD — A proposed zoning bylaw amendment that would regulate new firearms dealerships in Westford has received the blessing of the Select Board.
The Select Board voted unanimously to co-sponsor the proposed bylaw amendment during an April 25 meeting. The proposal returns to the Planning Board for consideration, which could make a decision on whether to co-sponsor the proposal with the Select Board as early as May 1.
“The boards did seem to reach a consensus at that [April 11] meeting,” said Director of Land Use Management Jeffrey Morrissette.
Officials believe the current language could hold up to potential legal challenges if it is approved in a future Town Meeting.
“We did have this language reviewed by Town Counsel, they thought it was legally tenable and defensible,” he said.
If the Planning Board votes to co-sponsor the proposal, the public hearing process could begin as early as June.
“If they are [the Planning Board] amenable moving forward, we’re immediately going to work on preparing the public hearing notice and that would set things up for the public hearing to start sometime in June, either June 5 or the June 20 Planning Board Meeting.”
He continued, “but we would have to get the public hearing notice published much sooner than that, we would probably send it to the newspapers for publication next week, so perhaps the following week.”
Once the public hearing notice is published, new firearms shops could be subject to review under the proposal if the proposal passes during Town Meeting and is approved by the Attorney General.
“It separates those that come in before the public hearing notice versus those that come in after. They [new firearms businesses] would be subject to the new bylaw if it is approved by the AG and Town Meeting,” he said.
Proposal exempts sportsmen’s clubs
This information was originally reported by WestfordCAT on April 11. It has since been updated as of April 25 to reflect changes to the proposal. We will continue to include this additional context in future updates as the bylaw continues consideration and will amend it as the proposal is updated by the Town of Westford.
The proposed bylaw would not impact businesses that have already received approval, such as a firearms dealership at 359 Littleton Rd.
The draft bylaw would not apply to sportsmen’s clubs, such as the Westford Sportsmen’s Club or Stony Brook Fish and Game Association.
New firearms businesses would be allowed under a special permit in the Commercial Highway and Industrial Highway districts under the proposal.
The proposal could limit the number of firearms businesses within Westford at one given time. The draft bylaw would allow four special permits for firearms businesses within the town.
Proposal contains a number of setbacks, restrictions
The draft bylaw could limit new businesses within 500 feet of schools, child care centers, religious institutions or existing firearms businesses.
Under the most recent proposal, the Planning Board would be the Special Permit Granting Authority for future firearms businesses.
Additionally, the Planning Board could impose a number of criteria for a proposed firearms business that falls within 500 feet of a facility that “serves persons under age 18 who commonly congregate to participate in scheduled and structured activities.” These criteria include:
- Whether children congregate at a specific place according to a schedule.
- How frequently children congregate at the specific location in such scheduled and structured activities.
- Whether the purpose of congregating is for an activity designed for or targeted towards children.
- Whether the children congregate in groups of six or more.
- Information contained within the purpose sections of Business Certificates and/or Articles of Organization filed with the Corporations Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
These criteria do not apply to one-on-one instructional services or facilities where children “may happen to congregate but not in a structured, scheduled manner.”
Under the proposal, businesses would need to submit a security plan as well as an operations and management plan to the Westford Police Department.