A public forum to discuss a proposed gun range next to Nick’s Pawn Shop will be held Thursday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the city library meeting room.
The forum is hosted by neighboring homeowners who said they are concerned they didn’t get to participate in prior discussions about the potential noise that could come from the indoor gun range.
“As a neighborhood, we are not against a gun range in the community of Washington,” Gail McFatrich, one of the residents who pushed for a public forum, said. “We just didn’t want one in our neighborhood. We thought one in an industrial area would work better.”
The property is zoned C-2, and an indoor range requires a special use permit in that district. Plans call for a 60-foot by 60-foot expansion. The property is located on a portion of Fifth Street that has a mix of residential to light industrial uses. McFatrich said she doesn’t think the council considered the number of homes in the area.
Nicholas Watts, owner of Nick’s Gun and Pawn, at 1807 E. Fifth St., received a special use permit in May to open an addition to the business where the indoor range would be located.
There were public hearings held in front of the Washington Planning and Zoning Commission in May and then the city council later that month.
Area residents said they were not aware of the public hearings, stating notices published by the city were “vague” and there was not a sign posted on the property where the permit was sought.
That’s why they are holding the a public forum. Ward 1 residents are targeted by the organizers because that is where the gun range is slated to open. The forum is open for public comments and concerns. Washington Police Chief Ed Menefee is expected to attend, organizers said.
McFatrich asked council members questions she had concerns with regarding the range and said she didn’t get a good response. That’s part of the reason she helped create the public forum. They’re looking for answers to a number of concerns.
Residents are worried about the noise of shooting firearms. They are also concerned about air contamination from lead. They want to know if air monitoring will be done in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.
Other things they’d like to be considered include: home values, security, parking and the type of people this may draw to the neighborhood.
They would also like to discuss the location compared to proximity to churches, child care centers and residential buildings.
The hours of operation for Nick’s Gun and Pawn now are Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The gun range would be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A parking plan will be required prior to occupancy to ensure the minimum standards are met.
The council tabled approval of the special use permit in May until the city could determine a mechanism to regulate noise coming from the indoor range.
In early June the permit was approved after the council was informed that an update to the 2017 city code includes a mechanism to regulate sounds if there is a complaint.
At the time, Sal Maniaci, community and economic development director, told the council if city staff sees or hears an issue, they can use measurement equipment to make sure noise levels meet the city standards.
In April, the city council approved a new definition in its codes to allow for an indoor gun range within the city limits.
Prior to approval of the code change, indoor gun ranges are not defined as a permitted use in any zoning districts. The code amendment allows indoor gun ranges to be placed in C-2, C-3, M-1 and M-2 zoning districts with a special use permit.
In addition, the city also has an ordinance that states firearms can only be discharged on properties of 3 acres or more. That was to protect large property owners in the city if they wished to hunt, however, it inexplicably prohibited gun ranges because it did not specify indoor or outdoor.