Larry Varner has cleared all the hurdles and now can turn his attention on opening an indoor shooting range within the St. Clair city limits.
With a unanimous vote on Monday night, the board of aldermen approved the rezoning of property Varner has purchased at 795 N. Commercial Ave. from residential to commercial. The parcel is the old bowling alley.
The rezoning came on the heels of a public hearing that preceded the aldermen’s regular meeting. No one spoke during that hearing. In fact, when Mayor Ron Blum opened the proceedings at 6:45 p.m., only Varner was in attendance. A few people wandered in before the hearing was closed at 7 p.m. and the regular meeting began, but none of them spoke.
The zoning change was necessary because of a law currently in the books. The old bowling alley, as well as several other parcels in St. Clair where businesses are operating, are under a blanket residential zoning classification passed decades ago.
St. Clair Building Inspector Jeremy Crowe currently is working on identifying what each parcel is zoned within the city after it was discovered that the bowling alley, the McDonald’s restaurant and others are residential even though business activity takes place on them.
The city’s planning and zoning board gave Varner its blessing last month and recommended passage of the ordinance to the aldermen.
Two weeks ago, the aldermen unanimously passed three ordinances relating to the indoor shooting range.
The first allows individuals with a valid permit to carry concealed weapons in the city. The second allows for the discharge of firearms in city limits, but only in an approved indoor shooting facility. Lastly, the board passed a law to amend the city’s zoning codes to include indoor ranges as a permitted use in certain commercial and industrial zones.
Prior to that July 21 meeting, two public hearings were conducted pertaining to the first two of the three ordinances.
Varner is the owner of St. Clair Gun & Pawn, 1002 South Outer Road. He plans to move that business to the front of the old bowling alley and convert the lanes into the shooting range.
He said no food or alcohol would be sold at the business and certified personnel would be on hand at all times.
The building measures 11,300 square feet.
Varner said he plans to modify the outside of the building with concrete-filled blocks or steel to ensure the range meets all federal guidelines.
Before Varner could move forward with his plans, he also must get approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
He also has to apply for and receive a new St. Clair business license.
“I’m amazed and shocked by the positive response to this gun range,” Varner has said. “Hopefully, this will be an asset to the community.”
Until his way is cleared, Varner said he is letting the building sit idle.
The aldermen approved the rezoning without discussion.