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The Roanoke Planning Commission was told the site would not be used for a pawn shop.
Friday, June 14, 2013
The owner's lawyer promised it wouldn't be a pawn shop when Smith and Associates petitioned the Roanoke Planning Commission last month to allow a retail store in the bottom floor of the old eye doctor's offices at Franklin Road and Broadway.
But "Pawn Shop" is what the windows and door say now.
There's a line of electric guitars hanging on the back wall, a side wall crammed with CDs and some fancy looking electronics in one counter, though there are only empty boxes in the glass counter labeled "Gold."
"I saw that sign go up almost immediately," planning commission Chairwoman Lora Katz said. "Why would a lawyer lie to you like that? It's just weird."
It's especially odd, she added, since the city's zoning code says nothing specific about pawn shops - they are treated just like any other store.
She said her colleagues on the commission were shocked when they learned of the pawn shop, though none said it would have changed the vote.
Frank Smith, president of Neighbors in South Roanoke, said the neighborhood association is upset because they had feared that a pawn shop was in the works at one of the main gateways into their community.
"We're shocked and appalled," he said. "They were specifically asked ... they said there would not be a pawn shop and that's exactly what's there."
Smith and Associates' lawyer in the zoning case, James F. Douthat, of the Woods Rogers firm, told the planning commission during a May 14 public hearing on the matter that the store planned for the building would sell jewelry and might also have high grade shotguns and other high end merchandise.
Katz, noting that her family had operated a pawn shop, then asked if Smith and Associates planned on renting the space to a pawn shop.
Douthat said it would not be a pawn shop.
Asked about his statement, he said Thursday that he had nothing to do with operating the property. Smith and Associates did not return a call seeking comment.
Katz, who had opposed rezoning the parcel, said there was nothing the planning commission could do about the matter, since a pawn shop is permitted under the rezoning. The commission recommended approval of the rezoning of 2502 Broadway on May 14 by a 4-2 vote. The Roanoke City Council gave final approval 6-0 after a May 20 public hearing.
A pawn shop would not have been allowed under the old zoning, which would not permit any kind of retail operation. The space had been used to sell eyeglasses and contact lenses, as a sideline of the eye doctor's operations.
"I don't think knowing it was going to be a pawn shop would have changed anyone's mind," she said. The issue was whether any kind of retail was appropriate on the side of the building facing Franklin Road, she said.
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