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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Council Okays Firearms Use Permit After Neighbors Agree

Issue Date: July 20, 2022

What could have been an on-going battle over a proposed firearms business in a City of Peshtigo neighborhood turned instead into a demonstration of what communication and cooperation can accomplish. Travis Schroeder had sought a conditional use permit to allow him to do gunsmithing and firearms sales from his home at 149 N. Wood Street, and he will be allowed to do that, but with some limitations.

After hearing about objections from a number of neighbors Schroeder modified his initial request and asked instead for a type 1permit that would allow a more restricted home occupation than the all-encompassing type 7 license he had initially sought.

Schroeder explained the change at a public hearing at the start of a special City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 19, after which aldermen voted unanimously to grant the modified permit. Schroeder and several of his neighbors were present for the meeting, and expressed approval of the decision.

Other business at the special meeting included hiring Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission at a cost of up to $5,000 to help with the bidding process for engineering services for the EMS Neighborhood Grant that will pay for remodeling the city's two fire stations and doing some other improvements at the downtown Municipal Building and authorizing Fire Chief Charles Gardon to hire Michael Charlesworth as a firefighter.

When the half-hour open session that started the meeting concluded Council went into closed executive session to confer with legal counsel over possible litigation in connection with storm water as well as the long disputed sanitary sewer crossing that involves BPM Inc. Tom Gryzwa, Fred Meintzand Dan Seyour, who are members of the Water and Sewer Committee, remained in the Council chambers for the closed meeting in addition to City Attorney David Spangenberg, Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal, Mayor Cathi Malke, and Aldermen Debbie Sievert, Allen England, Brigitte Schmidt, Katie Berman, Chris Rohde and Keith Klimek.

Schroeder had initially sought a Conditional Use Permit for a home occupation with a Class 7 Federal firearms license, which would would have allowed weapons manufacture as well as the permit for gunsmithing, cerakoting, fire arms transfers and sales and would have allowed him to be a registered firearm dealer with the state he had explained the weapons would be stored in a safe in his house, and he would be doing the work , mainly cerakoting, in his garage. His house is secured by cameras and a fenced in yard. He had said from the start that he intended to keep working at his full time job, with the gun smithing to be very part time and more of a hobby than a business.

However, neighbors were concerned about explosives and about persons who might be attracted by the firearms business, and were raising objections. Accord had been reached before the Council meeting began.

When the public hearing opened Schroeder explained that Jim Albright, an area firearms dealer, had reached out to him after the Plan Commission refused his use permit and explained all the things he could do with a type 1 license, and he had found he could do without the type 7 license that neighbors objected to. "I can still break guns down, cerakote them and put them back together," Schroeder said, which is what he wanted to do in the first place. He had initially thought that was considered manufacture, which is why he had sought the type 7 license.

"If he's going for the type 1 license, we're all in favor of that," Angel Wink, one of the neighbors who had objected, said at the hearing, adding, "If he was going for the type 7 we'd all be against it."

Wayne Caebe, another neighbor, said if Schroeder talked to Jim Albright about his plans he had gotten good advice, and in view of the change in scope he and others who had objected to the conditional use permit agreed to back down. He added that if Schroeder ever wants to expand his weapons business, if he wants to go bigger and full time and add the manufacturing feature he would have to come back to City Council. Spangenberg said if Council approved the conditional use for a type 1 license Schroeder could not switch to a type 7 without going through a whole new conditional use permit process. He added if people have complaints they can come to City Council and if there are violations the use permit can be rescinded.

Caebe asked if there are any inspections involved with the type 1 license, and Chief Gardon said there are no routine inspections, but if there were complaints the Fire Department could do an inspection. Schroeder said in accord with the licensing, ATF can come in and inspect "whenever they feel like it."

Schroeder said the neighbors mainly objected to the idea of manufacturing firearms and ammunition, which would involve storing explosives on site, and he will not be doing that. He will buy and sell guns on a small scale, and disassemble and reassemble them.

Sievert commented that other people in the city have type 1 permits.

Berman asked if there would be test shooting, and Schroeder said it is illegal to shoot in the city, and the weapons he cerakotes will not need to be fired at all.

Berman asked if the neighbors were all satisfied, and Caebe said they had all agreed to it.

Schmidt expressed thanks to Caebe and others for all the research he and other neighbors had done, and that they all eventually came together. Caebe said the type 7 is the most powerful license you can get, and he had been told that if Council approved the use permit for it, ATF would have been obligated to issue the license.

After being assured that neighbors were all okay with Schroeder's modified request, vote in favor of granting the conditional use permit "subject to all other necessary permits, registrations and licenses," was unanimous.

"Commend you for getting together and working it out so everybody is happy with the decision," Malke declared. After the use approval she congratulated Schroeder on his new venture.

The meeting then turned to a request from Malke to hire BLRPC to help prepare the bid documents for the fire station expansion project.

In an e-mail to Malke, Sydney Swan, Economic Development Planner with BLRPC, had said as a preliminary commitment, they would perform up to $5,000 in work for project administration services that would include assisting with the pre-award documentation and contract preparation; procurement of an engineer or final drawings and budget, including drafting the request for qualifications and evaluation; assist with financial management and reporting and assist with overall grant agreement compliance.

Malke said the federal grant required doing the biding documents in specific ways, and she was uncertain what had to be included. She had reached out to BLRPC. "They can do the work for $5,000 or less," Malke said, "...but to me, this work is priceless because that's one thing I do not know how to do."

Schmidt asked what costs the city would pay in connection with the grant project, and Malke said none. The city's contribution is all in-kind, and mainly involves having Public Works personnel take down some trees and take out the blacktop at the two fire stations.

Council was advised that the Water and Sewer Committee had voted to replace the water, sewer and storm lines as needed in the alley between S. Ellis Ave. and S. Emery Ave. when the parking lot at City Hall is torn up for the fire station expansion project. That utility work is not covered by the grant, but committee comments were that the lines are all old would need to be replaced in the not too distant future in any case.

Final item during the open portion of the Council meeting was approval of a resolution declaring the city's intent to reimburse city accounts for money spent, up to $2 million, to initially pay for storm water collection system improvements being done in connection with the Clean Water Fund program and then reimburse those expenditures after long term municipal bonds are issued after the work is done and actual costs are known.

The open session portion of the meeting was completed shortly before 6:30 p.m. and the closed session to confer with legal council on water and sewer issues legal issues began. After about half an hour the closed session ended and the meeting was adjourned with no further action and no public information on what the closed-door discussion included.


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