On May 9, the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss firearm sales as a permitted use in the commercial general, commercial lodging and industrial zones in the Town of Mammoth.
Recently it came to the Commission’s attention that an individual was looking to open a firearms sales business in an existing commercial space in town. It also came to the Commission’s attention that an existing firearms sales business is seeking to relocate to the Industrial Park.
“There is nothing in the zoning code about selling firearms,” stated Planning Commission Chair Jay Deinken. “We are going to discuss what kind of permitting should be involved.”
Deinken added that he wasn’t sure how the discussion would go and acknowledged that the topic would be “very polarizing.”
He pointed to a case study from the City of Sunnyvale, Calif. in regard to issues and possible actions involved in regulation of firearms sales at the municipal level. In this study, neighbors were concerned when a gun shop opened, even though it was done legally. The complaints included the visible location of the shop, and the fact that the neighbors were not given advanced notice.
The concerns led to the question of whether firearms sales businesses should have restricted locations.
Currently, there are strict federal and state regulations in place regarding the sale and purchase of firearms. In addition, the Mammoth Lakes Police Department has an existing “Weapons Dealer License” application process and requirements, according to a draft staff report for the May 9 meeting.
The Planning Commission will be asked to answer two questions on May 9. First, is the sale of firearms similar and no more detrimental than existing permitted uses in the commercial zones? Second, is the sale of firearms similar and no more detrimental than existing permitted uses in the industrial zone?
In the meantime, Clayton Mendel, owner of Eastern Sierra Armory, the existing firearms sales business simply seeking to relocate, is stuck.
“Even though there’s nothing in the zoning code, they had my business as being flagged for relocation approval, but due to lack of internal communication between finance and planning, they continued to issue me business tax licenses for new addresses,” Mendel said in an email. “When I initially started the business I did clear it with planning, and they confirmed that there are no restrictions in town for firearms-related activities. If there are no restrictions, what is there to approve?”
He added that by the time he was notified of all this, he had already surrendered his existing licenses to have new ones issued for the new address. According to the draft staff report, he would be relocating from Sierra Manor Road to the Industrial Park.
According to the draft staff report, Community Development and the MLPD met with the Zoning Code Committee. The Committee determined that the issue should be brought to the Planning Commission to discuss amending the zoning code to include additional requirements such as “buffer zones from schools and daycares, and additional review of on-site security (similar to the established medical marijuana zoning requirements).”
However, the report continued, staff did additional research following the meeting with the Zoning Code Committee and determined that the existing rigorous set of federal, state, and local licensing and permitting requirements are sufficient to regulate the sale and purchase of firearms. According to the draft staff report, staff will be recommending that the Commission determine that the sale of firearms in commercial and industrial zones is a permitted use.
The Planning Commission meets on May 9 at 2 p.m. in Suite Z.