In a way, Danville Community Development Director Ken Gillie has to play the role of both wordsmith and legal scholar when it comes to tinkering with city code.

He has to come up with a definition of “indoor recreation,” something not included in the city’s regulations, which is why the issue of skill-based gaming machines has been in limbo in recent months.

It’s why the Danville Planning Commission and the city council have yet to approve at least a dozen requests for special-use permits to operate the machines.

“It will be a written draft of possible code language with recommendations,” Gillie said of the task ahead.

He will take code recommendations to a planning commission work session where members will give input. The proposed language would be re-written by Gillie, if necessary, and brought before another work session or a public hearing.

The commission would then vote whether to recommend approval of the code language before it goes to city council for a final review.

It was an anonymous tip about skilled gaming machines set up in convenience stores that set off a recent city investigation and led to dozens of applications being bounced back and forth between the planning commission and city council over the past three months as officials attempt to define indoor recreation and determine the proper zoning requirements — including certificate of occupancy and parking requirements.

Before drafting the language, Gillie will research what other localities have done and talk to experts in order to come up with proposed language defining indoor recreation.

The Danville Planning Commission hopes to hold a work session within the next few weeks to hash out the matter and come up with a clear meaning of indoor recreation for the city’s code.

In addition to other localities, Gillie plans to talk to the American Planning Association, a national group that represents the urban planning profession.

He will use gathered information to help determine what types of parking and sign requirements to impose for facilities — such as convenience stores — that want to include skill-based gaming machines.

He will contact other cities and towns in Virginia and elsewhere.

“Other states that have dealt with this thing, I’ll try to get information from them,” Gillie said Tuesday.

Coming up with a definition for indoor recreation and parking and sign guidelines is vital, especially with so called “gray machines” — electronic skill-based games that are legally ambiguous — popping up in the city, said City Manager Ken Larking.

The state also may determine whether to regulate the games or ban them altogether.

“If the state is going to allow them, the city will have to set guidelines,” Larking said. “That way, everyone knows what’s expected and it’s an even playing field. It gives a business more clarity on what’s expected of them.”

As it stands now, officials do not know what meaning to assign to “indoor recreation.”

“It covers so many things, I’m not sure how it should be defined right now,” Planning Commission Chairman Harold Garrison said of the phrase “indoor recreation.”

Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.

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Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.

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