We recently received notice from the Village of Elm Grove that one of our neighbors is applying for a Conditional Use Permit for his residentially zoned property in order to run a firearms business from his home. We are concerned about the notice procedure, and are also concerned about gun dealing from residences.
We are one of just eight neighbors (all direct adjacencies) notified of this application, and on very short notice, receiving the letter February 25th.
Other critical nearby institutions were not notified, including St. Mary's, which occupies the block directly to the west, or Tonawanda Elementary, which is within walking distance. The School Sisters of Notre Dame is also a block away.
The agenda for the March 7th Plan Commission meeting only states that the Conditional Use Permit is for a "professional home office." We wonder how the decision was made to categorize this business as such. The definition of professional home offices in our Village Code begins reads, "Residences of doctors of medicine, dentists, clergymen, business consultants, architects, landscape architects, lawyers, manufacturers' representatives, professional engineers…" and then declares that "A professional home office does not include a massage parlor, tattoo parlor or body-piercing parlor."
On March 7th, the day of the Plan Commission meeting, the applicant pushed the request forward to the April meeting, perhaps because of questions to officials by neighbors such as us.
We feel the need to respect residential zoning. It is a privilege, not a right, for anyone to open a commercial business in our residentially zoned neighborhoods. We also wonder who will monitor this business as far as people coming and going and deliveries - the police? The unfortunate neighbors who are forced to complain? And who pays for the monitoring?
We also feel that this is a very risky business. The applicant does not have a Federal Firearms License and this Conditional Use Permit is his first step to being a home-based licensed firearms dealer. Unfortunately the application for the Conditional Use Permit filed with the Village has no business operating plan information. It could be oriented toward selling guns on the Internet, directly from the home or some combination of the two. Once the license is issued, there is no difference from the Federal Government's point of view.
We have called several officials and have run into some varied opinions on home-based firearm sales. One person rhetorically likened the application to that of selling Amway soap from the home. We haven't yet seen Amway household products used in major (or minor) crimes, nor has the ATF begun licensing these soap peddlers, so we don't see the point. We suggest that the applicant open a gun store in the Park and Shop or in the downtown business district. If it is decided that it is not acceptable downtown, why should it be okay across the street?
We think it is time to review the notification process for Conditional Use Permits. We need to identify businesses by their primary mission - not use the catch-all title "Professional Home Office" for every business that comes along. We need more appropriate time spans of notification - a week to ten days is not enough. We need standard geographic notifications so that home-based firearms notifications are right up there with fence replacements. On this last point, 65 of our neighbors were notified when we applied to the Village to replace our old fence.
We encourage Village citizens to check into this issue. The Conditional Use Permit for the home on Elmwood Road will be presented at the next Plan Commission Meeting, April 4th, and if approved would be up for approval at the April 26th Board of Trustees meeting. It may continue to be posted as a "professional home office."
This issue is bigger than a handful of adjacent neighbors.
Jay and Julie Van Cleave
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