A request for a conditional use permit (CUP) to open a gun and ammo store on St. Louis Street triggered a discussion on the role of the Pacific Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).
Michael Callahan, owner of AX2 Sporting Arms, had already begun renovating the white brick building at 115 W. St. Louis St. when his application for a CUP was considered by P&Z Jan. 23.
Callahan had to leave the meeting before his request was reached on the agenda, so Commissioner Jim Smith, who handled the sale of the property, spoke for him.
Smith described the proposed gun store will be a topnotch operation that will bring significant sales tax revenue to the city. He said Callahan has made great strides in restoring the former bank building to its original appearance, removing partitions and paneling.
Callahan also has removed the drop ceiling to return the original skylights, which are beautiful, Smith said.
Smith said gun buyers will likely come from a long distance to shop here and he believes the city would benefit with hefty sales taxes collected there.
City Administrator Steve Roth said guns are not listed as a use or a conditional use in the zoning regulations and, as a result, would require a CUP, but he added the store appears to be compatible with the comprehensive plan.
“Downtown revitalization is a clear goal of the comprehensive plan,” Roth said.
Alderman Nick Chlebowski said the sale of guns in the old downtown area raises concerns about possible burglaries there. He said guns and ammo are targets of theft and he wants some assurances on the security measures in the building.
“It (gun sales) fits our city quite well, but I want to make sure it will be high quality and well secured,” Chlebowski said. “I want to make sure that this is done right.”
Smith responded that the building was a bank at one time. “It was built for security,” he said.
Gary Koelling said he could recall growing up here when you could walk down St. Louis Street, which was a thriving district where four or five businesses sold guns.
“Time went by and we started losing businesses and no one would come back in,” Koelling said. “We’ve got an opportunity to bring another person into town to open a business. Maybe it will bring in another business.”
Resident Brad Reed said it’s not the role of P&Z to tell the store owner what to do with his guns.
“That’s not your issue,” he said. “This is a land use hearing. Your issue is does it fit in our city.”
Reed said he remembers when Grant Thornton wanted to open his pawnshop on North First Street where he could (and still does) sell guns.
“There has not been one issue with gun sales there,” he said. Most people don’t know he’s there. There was another gun store near the high school and there was never an issue there.
“The question is do we want retail in this town or don’t we? I’m right across the street and I can tell you there is no issue,” Reed said. “I welcome anyone who wants to come into town and open a business.”
Chlebowski said he does not have a problem with the business, but wants to be certain it does not bring potential crime to the city.
“I want to make sure it is secure,” he said.
“I watch TV at night and I see more burglaries at gas stations than at gun stores,” Reed said. “Should we stop having gas stations?”
Smith asked Chlebowski to visit the building and look at the security there.
The commission voted to recommend approval of the CUP, which will go to the board of aldermen this week for approval.