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Indoor gun range meets with VFP

Posted: January 21, 2013 - 1:06am

Despite talk of settlement at a recent pre-appeal hearing, Veterans for Peace will continue to pursue its appeal of the Mercantile and Armory indoor gun range.

Veterans for Peace Juneau Chapter president Phil Smith and owners of the Mercantile and Armory LLC met with City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Member and appeal hearing officer Loren Jones and CBJ Senior Planner Greg Cheney Jan. 17 for a pre-appeal hearing in City Hall conference room 224.

The appellant said the city’s planning commission did not offer sufficient public discourse on the project and permit application before approval. That public health and safety was not adequately taken into account.

Cheney represents the CBJ Planning Commission in the appeal.

“We respectfully disagree that this was not done properly,” Cheney said. He called the appeal a “baseless accusation.”

The commission approved the Armory’s Conditional Use Permit 20120016 on Dec. 11, 2012. Smith submitted an appeal for Veterans for Peace on Jan. 2.

Appellees and Armory owners CBJ Assembly Member Dan Miller, Sloan Swendsen and Jason Tarver were all in attendance. Swendsen said the public record sufficiently documents the concerns in Veteran’s for Peace’s appeal. The appellees asked the city to compile a report detailing the permit’s public discourse — the CBJ Planning Commission and Assembly have both held public hearings of the permit.

Dan Miller, Jason Tarver and Sloan Swendsen incorporated the Armory on Aug. 13, 2012. Miller said Smith’s concern for safety is unfounded.

“The range instructors are all [National Rifle Association] certified,” Miller said. “The safety classes are all NRA. Family and home gun safety. Gun safety for kids.”

Miller also disagreed that the process went too fast.

“We applied for this back in August. I wish you would have come to some of the meetings,” Miller said to Smith.

Located on the corner of Yandukin Drive, Crest Street and Airport Boulevard the proposed 13,000-square-foot Mercantile and Armory would house a 10-lane indoor gun range below ground level and a retail space on the first floor. The Armory owners have said the shooting range would be encased in concrete and insulated for sound.

City planner Cheney agreed to return its report by Jan. 29. The appellant and appellees then have until Feb 7 to respond. From Feb. 7 to Feb. 10 the parties can respond to each other. Hearing officer Loren Jones scheduled a second pre-appeal hearing for Feb. 12. Veterans for Peace can offer to settle the appeal or continue at this meeting.

After the pre-hearing meeting the Armory owners held an informal discussion to see if they could find common ground before going through all the paper work of an appeal. As the four men left the conference room, Swendsen said, the Armory owners had decided to wait until further along in the process to comment.

“One thing we are trying to avoid is a lot of animosity, a lot of accusatory finger-pointing, name calling,” Smith said after the meeting. “There are literally hundreds of people in this town who have indicated a great concern about this. That sensitivity was not displayed in the city staff’s analysis of the project.”

Juneau resident Dixie Hood requested to join Veterans for Peace as an appellant. Smith declined.

“Guns are just all over the place in Alaska,” Hood said. “It is an ongoing concern for me.”

Hood said she was worried by the thought that more youth would have easier access to firearms. She said youth who have easy access to guns and who may feel comfortable around guns are more likely to have a gun-related accident or commit suicide with a gun. Poor judgment and peer pressure could result in trouble, she said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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