Peshtigo Plan Commission Denies Home Gun BusinessIssue Date: May 11, 2022
After much discussion at its meeting on Wednesday, May 4, the City of Peshtigo Plan Commission approved a conditional use permit that allows Nathan and Kelly Gamlin of NMG Properties, LLC to convert part of the first floor of their building at 341 Oconto Ave. (the former Colonial Club/King of Clubs building) into residential apartments, and on a tie vote denied a request from Travis Schroeder to allow a home occupation for gunsmithing, manufacturing firearms, and transferring and selling firearms from his home at 149 N. Wood Street, which is located in a Zone R-3 Multiple-Family Residential District.
Deliberations began with a public hearing at 3:30 p.m., at which no one spoke for or against either of the requests.
Plan Commission members present included Karen Plouf, Marquita Limberg, Mary Lock, Doug VanWinkle, Alderman Debbie Sievert and Mayor Cathi Malke, who chairs the Commission.
Kelly Gamelin explained she and her husband recently purchased the King of Clubs building, which is zoned B-2, General Commercial, and want to create apartments in half the main floor of the former restaurant/bar building, with the other half to be used as headquarters for their real estate business and perhaps another commercial business.
From the audience, Alderman Chris Rohde said he had been contacted by some of his constituents with concerns over Schroeder's proposed firearms business in their neighborhood.
"It is my intention to present you with comments and concerns from the neighbors in the direct vicinity of the above location, with thoughts, feelings, concerns and questions revolving around the conditional use permit being requested," Rohde said, adding that he had been asked to bring these questions to the Commission by multiple individuals who did not want to be singled out, but did want to be heard.
Rohde said the neighbors would like to show their appreciation to Mr. Schroeder for following the appropriate actions to ensure compliance to Local, State and Federal Laws and Regulations. "As it was explained to me, this shows good character and says positive things for Mr. Schroeder's intentions to be open and honest," Rohde said.
He then relayed a number of questions for the Plan Commission,starting with: "If a conditional use permit is granted, what stops other neighbors from starting their own business, thus turning a residential neighborhood into a commercial or manufacturing area?"
Other questions were:
"What will be manufactured and how?
"Will this create and cause excessive noise due to the process?
"Is the intention of sales and transfer, to allow for keeping an inventory or stock to be kept on hand?
"What assurance can be provided to the neighbors that their safety will not be compromised in any way by having this type of business in their neighborhood?
"Is there a specific type or style of firearms that the petitioner is solely interested in?, and finally, "In the process of daily business would these firearms be discharged at any time, in any certain fashion?"
Rohde also asked if the city has other commercial properties more suitable that Mr. Schroeder could use instead of putting the business in a residential neighborhood and what are the possible added fire hazards and/or other safety hazards due to the processes involved, such as possible ammunition or re-loading supplies being stored on site?
Rohde noted a letter had been sent to those living within 100 feet of the 149 N. Wood Street address, and wondered if the parents of the children who frequent the neighborhood park at the end of the block had also been given written notice of the Conditional Use request.
Rohde added that there is strong support for Mr. Schroeder to be a successful entrepreneur, "...but the concerns surrounding this type of process/ business in a residential neighborhood does not seem to be a good fit." He said he was also asked to pass along a comment that the neighbors are not against guns in anyway, except the location in reference to their property and the residential area in which they have chosen to live.
Schroeder fielded numerous questions from Commission members. He explained his plan is to have the business as a very part-time venture, since he has a good full time with only special coating of the weapons done in his garage workshop. He said the coating can be applied to other items, not only weapons, and he has a filtration system to prevent odors from leaving the building. There will be no machining done, no open flames, and the few weapons on-site at any one time will be locked away except when he is actually working on them.
He had applied for the conditional use permit only because it is required by the ATF when his work includes the serial number areas on the weapons he refinishes.
Discussion on the Gamlin request included questions on parking spots available. With four apartments being created, eight full time parking spots are required. The Gamlins said they own space on both sides of the building.
Malke said she was eager to see improvements at this important downtown location.
Police Chief Fred Popp was asked if he had concerns about either request, and he did not.
Vote ultimately was unanimous in favor of granting the Gamlin request, and split evenly on Schroeder's request, with Malke, Lock and Sievert opposed and Van Winkle, Plouf and Limberg in favor.
Malke suggested that Schroeder should go and personally talk to his neighbors and then come back to the Plan Commission. Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal suggested that instead, he could do an appeal process and bring his request directly to City Council after talking with the neighbors. She also suggested the Council or the commission could put conditions and restrictions if they do decide to grant the conditional use permit. She distributed copies of applicable portions of the ordinance.
Conditions she suggested included perhaps setting hours of operation, adding parking spaces, perhaps requiring an annual inspection of the work area and the property.
The Commission was told that Fire Chief Chuck Gardon had met with Schroeder and had no further concerns. Chief Popp said he had found Schroeder to be polite and cordial, and his property well maintained. Security cameras have been installed, and Popp had a background check done on Schroeder and there were no issues. "From a law enforcement and safety aspect, I see no problem," Popp told the Commission. He said Schroeder does not intend to have a large inventory of guns on his property, and most homes in this entire area have some weapons in them.
Malke asked Schroeder if he had looked at sites in the business district for his business, and was told he cannot do the painting part in a store front, and since he is only doing it part time, having a separate location would not be feasible. To questions from Sievert he said his house is kept locked, and what guns he keeps there are locked up inside it.
He expected very little traffic, since any selling he did would be by appointment only, one customer at a time, and the refinishing portion of the business would be done the same way. He said the solution he uses for cleaning is environmentally friendly, and the loudest equipment he uses is an air compressor.
Plouf noted neighbors wanting to sell their hoes would need to tell prospective buyers about proximity of the part-time business, and that might be a problem for some.
Malke said she had two of the neighbors share their concerns with her, and mentioned that the city had refused a grant for the park near the dam because they would have needed to allow hunting there, and they chose not to.
Sievert said she also had gotten calls.
"We want your neighbors to feel safe in the homes they live in," Malke told him.
There seemed to be general agreement that had Schroeder provided more information in advance to his neighbors the request might have been granted. "The neighbors were concerned because they lack knowledge about what he will be doing," Sievert said. "He's not starting a retail shop. He's doing a home business."
Despite proposals to put on conditions such as limits on hours of operation, noise, etc., the commission vote was three in favor of granting the permit and three against, so the
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