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Kenai gun shop gets turned down

Posted: Monday, February 07, 2000

A decision by the city of Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission to turn down a gun shop in the Inlet Woods neighborhood may ricochet, as the proprietor plans an appeal.

On at 3-to-3 vote at it's Jan. 29 meeting, the commission denied a conditional-use permit for a gun shop at 1110 Channel Way made by Steven and Judith Robinson. The neighborhood near Forest Drive and Redoubt Avenue is zoned residential. Commission members Don Erwin, Ron Goecke and Amy Jackman voted in favor of granting the permit, while Barbara Nord, Phil Bryson and Carl Glick dissented. Commissioner Bob Newbry was absent.

Mr. Robinson stated in the permit application he wanted to "buy, sell, trade guns and ammunition and sporting items" in a shed next to his home. Initially, Robinson also wanted to manufacture ammunition at the site, which would require having up to 80 pounds of gunpowder on hand. At the meeting, though, he said he had changed his mind and would not be storing more than one pound of gun powder.

"I've given up on reloading altogether in that structure," Robinson said. "The regulations are pretty strict."

Planning Administrator Marilyn Kebschull, speaking for the city of Kenai, which owns lots adjacent to the Robinsons, objected to the manufacture of ammo but not the sale of same or to a mail order firearm business.

The city also objected to granting an encroachment permit for the Robinsons' shed, which stands less than 2 feet from the property line.

"The city feels this will affect the value of other lots," she said.

City Attorney Carey Graves noted the city will put the adjacent lots up for sale later this year.

The encroachment permit was passed on a 4-to-2 vote. Erwin, Goecke, Nord and Jackman voted yes.

In addition to Kebschull's objections on the part of the city, there were several others, mostly by mail.

Daniel Conetta, a property owner in the Inlet Woods Subdivi-sion, said that besides not being consistent with the zoning of the neighborhood, the storage of ammunition and firearms would create a situation that is harmful to public safety.

"The value of the adjoining properties and neighborhood will be significantly impaired," Conetta wrote.

John Baranger, another neighbor on Windward Drive, also objected.

"The issuance of such a permit would be absolutely contrary to the letter and spirit of the zoning of this area," he wrote. "I can assure you that very few cities would allow such commercial encroachment on a suburban residential area."

Paul and Sheryl Padilla also voiced strong objection to the gun shop.

"We chose to build our home in Inlet Woods two years ago specifically because of the neighborhood's quiet, residential quality and the fact that it is zoned 'residential,'" the Padillas wrote. "We are depending on (the Planning and Zoning Commission) to preserve the integrity of the 'residential' zoning of our neighborhood."

Only two Kenai residents spoke out in person against the permit, though neither of them lived in Inlet Woods.

Debbie Sonberg of Cinderella Street also questioned how a gun shop could meet the residential zoning of the area and suggested that it would negatively affect it.

Red McCollum of McCollum Drive agreed.

"I don't know the Robinsons and have no qualms against them, but I don't like the sound of a gun shop there," he said.

One nearby resident of Inlet Woods spoke up in favor of the shop.

"I'm seen as the neighborhood watchdog, so consequently I got a lot of calls," Chris Copple said. "Being a few houses down and with kids, I don't have a problem with this."

Copple said he didn't think Robinson's gun shop would be anything like another across the street from Kenai Middle School.

"This would be more of a gun shop than a gun store," he said. "Many like this are buddy-friend types of businesses."

Copple added that if other neighbors were as opposed to the gun shop as their letters sounded, they would have attended the meeting.

"If they were truly concerned about what Mr. Robinson was doing, they would be here tonight," he said.

Despite having a paved parking lot capable of holding seven cars, Robinson said he didn't see the business as being a high-traffic one.

"I'm trying to set up a semi-retirement business," he said. "I would like to get into the gunsmithing end of it, lathing and custom machining."

Commissioner Goecke said he was not concerned about the traffic issue.

"Amway and Avon businesses probably have more traffic," he said.

However, commissioner Nord summed up the issue when she said a gun shop would have an adverse affect on the ability to sell lots near the Robinsons.

"It will have an affect on a potential purchaser of a lot next door," she said. "If someone looks at an adjacent lot (and sees the gun shop) they will just go down the block a few doors."

The Robinsons have 30 days to appeal the commission's decision to the city council, which Mr. Robinson said he will most likely do.



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