CARLSBAD — A sea of people in support of a recreational shooting range packed city chambers Wednesday night to express their support for a gun range in Carlsbad.
Last December, Lisa Gunther, owner of Gunther Guns, was denied a minor conditional use permit to open a shooting range at her store on Loker Avenue West.
She appealed her decision to the Planning Commission.
On Wednesday, they voted whether or not City Planner Don Neu made an error or abuse in discretion on his decision to deny the 17-lane recreational shooting range.
The commission’s votes were tied, which by default, upheld Neu’s decision.
The decision can now be appealed to the City Council, which Gunther said, she plans on doing.
According to Assistant City Attorney Jane Mobaldi, the City Council designates Neu to make decisions on zoning issues because he is the most familiar with the intended zones.
He denied the recreational shooting range because if the use isn’t specified in the city code, it’s generally not allowed.
“More than anything, our code lists quite a number of uses so it’s pretty rudimentary that if it’s not in there, typically it’s not permitted,” Neu said.
He said that he was further convinced that the unique nature of a recreational shooting range is not allowed in the light-use industrial zone where Gunther Guns is located because there are only six ranges in the county.
Gunther appealed by saying Neu’s decision was not supported by facts and said people use a shooting range for the same reasons they use a gym, indoor go-cart track, ice skating rink or swimming facility.
Neu denied the appeal because he determined that she didn’t show enough proof.
He also determined that a shooting range is not similar to those facilities because of safety concerns including air quality, noise and the use of lead, which is a hazardous material.
Dozens of people spoke in favor of the recreational shooting range.
Many said there are not enough ranges in the county and the closet one, Iron Sights in Oceanside, is always packed and has long waits.
People also said that it was denied because recreational shooting ranges have a negative and unsafe connotation.
Bill Ims of Carlsbad, said Neu likely doesn’t understand recreational shooting ranges.
“I do think a terrible error was made by the staff when they denied the request but I don’t think it was for any reason other than misunderstanding. Often times we fear most what we don’t understand,” said Ims.
Gunther said she was surprised the range was rejected because she met with Neu and Associate Planner Shannon Wernecke. She said there was no debate when she spoke with them about the project.
“You can imagine my surprise when I received a rejection letter on Christmas Eve 2014. I did not see that one coming,” Gunther said.
Commissioners Hap L’Heureux, Marty Montgomery and Neil Black voted against Neu’s decision because they said they believed he made an error in denying the range.
Chairperson Victoria Scully and Commissioners Velyn Anderson and Jeff Segall voted to uphold Neu’s decision.
Commissioner Kerry Siekmann excused herself from the vote because she did accounting for Gunther Guns and said she couldn’t provide an unbiased vote.
The appeal will now go in front of the City Council.