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New zoning could apply retroactively to Dedham gun shop

The future of a gun shop that opened in mid-November in East Dedham is up in the air, according to local officials.

J & J Arms, a gun and ammunition shop, generated intense opposition over its location in a neighborhood business district close to a park and schools. Shortly after the store opened, Town Meeting voted on Nov. 25 to impose new zoning rules that would prohibit gun shops from locating anywhere in town except for a small area designated as an “adult use overlay district.”

Local officials say the rule would apply retroactively to J & J Arms, since Dedham posted the proposed zoning change in August — before the gun shop received approval to open.


“It was discussed at Town Meeting and clarified by town counsel that [the rule] would be retroactive, because under Massachusetts zoning law, once notice is given of a zoning amendment, the rule applies,” said Town Manager Leon Goodwin.

However, Goodwin said local officials have not decided whether to enforce the rule retroactively and likely get into a long legal fight.

“We are going to do what is right for the community, and that will involve weighing the costs,” Goodwin said.

The state attorney general’s office is reviewing the bylaw, as it does all bylaws approved by town meetings, and has 90 days to decide whether the zoning is consistent with state law.

The attorney general’s office does not get involved in whether a bylaw can be applied retroactively, according to spokeswoman Margaret Quackenbush.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.