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Zoning Board to Hear Resident Challenge to Gun Store

Nova Armory in Lyon ParkA group of Lyon Park and Ashton Heights residents is trying to challenge the legality of Nova Armory’s Certificate of Occupancy.

Nova Armory, a firearms retailer, opened in March in Lyon Park amid local controversy. The store’s owner, Dennis Pratte, is now suing dozens of residents and lawmakers, accusing them of trying to interfere with his business.

Five local residents launched their own legal offensive when they filed an appeal to Arlington’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), challenging the county’s decision to issue Nova Armory a Certificate of Occupancy, which is required for businesses with a physical location in Arlington.

Arlington County has previously said that there is nothing it can do legally to prevent a gun store from opening, as long as it follows zoning rules and files all the proper paperwork.

The appeal was submitted by residents Julia Young, Emily Hughes, Bernadette Brennan, Grace Chan and Nathan Guerrero on March 2, along with the $575.40 filing fee.

In a report to the BZA, Arlington’s Acting Zoning Administrator, Arlova Vonhm, recommends denying the appeal and upholding Nova Armory’s Certificate of Occupancy at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. Vonhm addressed each of the challenges made by the residents:

  • Appeal: In a media interview, Dennis Pratte said his 16-year-old daughter was the store’s owner, and thus he erroneously listed himself as the owner on the application.
    Staff position: “Mr. Pratte has clarified in subsequent media interviews that he is training his daughter to take over the business, but that he remains the principal on all leases, permits, and legal documents.”
  • Appeal: The description of the store as a “retail” location is false because Nova Armory’s website describes “wholesale pricing.”
    Staff position: “While the applicant’s website advertises wholesale pricing, this appears to be an advertisement of advantageous pricing to retail consumers, rather than a statement of intention to engage in wholesale trade.”
  • Appeal: The store is called NOVA Armory, but the business name was listed as Broadstone Security, LLC on the application.
    Staff position: “The Zoning Ordinance does not prohibit the use of fictitious trade names, which is a common practice for retail businesses.”
  • Appeal: The Zoning Administrator who issued the Certificate of Occupancy “did not research whether or not the applicant was a valid holder of a Federal Firearms License.”
    Staff position: “Given that the Zoning Administrator does not have the authority to enforce state or federal laws and regulations, the Zoning Office does not as a matter of general practice verify required compliance with state or federal licensure requirements for firearms store or any other type of business.”
  • Appeal: The Certificate of Occupancy “should be revoked due to an inaccurate record of ownership of the premises.”
    Staff position: “Property owner information was not material to the review of the proposed land use or the issuance of the permit to authorize said land use on the subject property, therefore it would not be a valid reason for the Zoning Administrator to revoke it.”

The BZA is slated to consider the appeal, along with a long slate of others, either Wednesday night or at a possible carryover meeting Thursday. The board is not required to follow the staff recommendation when making its decision.

Apparently misunderstanding the nature of the appeal — any citizen who says they’re “aggrieved” by a zoning decision can file an appeal — Nova Armory posted several messages on Twitter Tuesday decrying elected officials and an “abuse of power” by county government.

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