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Author Topic: LT - Gunsmith Gets OK for Home Business on Wilshire Drive  (Read 1652 times)
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« on: September 29, 2011, 05:54:56 PM »

From the Londonderry Times

Gunsmith Gets OK for Home Business on Wilshire Drive
Kathleen D. Bailey
Londonderry Times

A gunsmith who did his homework will be able to operate a home business in a residential area after the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) voted 3-1 to allow a special exception at its Wednesday, Sept. 21, meeting.

Paul Marceau of 20 Wilshire Drive, Tax Map 6-99 Lot 49, requested a special exception to allow him to have a home occupation involving the sale and occasional repair of firearms. While a contingent of about 20 neighbors showed up to show their objection to the business, three of the four Zoning Board members recognized Marceau's preparation and voted to allow him to operate, with a hefty list of conditions he must follow.

Business plan

Marceau presented his business plan to the board. He sells guns at trade shows and on the Internet, he said, and he expects to keep it that way. "This is not for walk-in customers," he said. "The only walk-ins will be from the (federal) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) when they do unannounced inspections."

Marceau told the board his repair customers would be by appointment only and during specified times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m.

Marceau said he had reviewed all state, federal and local laws regarding firearms sales and service. "This does not conflict with any of them," he said.

The Special Exception is required by the ATF and is a requirement for obtaining a Federal Firearms License or FFL, without which Marceau cannot deal with wholesale arms vendors, he said.

He also needs an official address from which to operate, he said. "A firearms dealer, " he said, "must have a premise."

While Marceau could legally put out guns every weekend at a yard sale, he said, "It makes sense, from a business and safety perspective, to be a registered dealer. You have to keep records of every purchase." He will also be licensed in the State of New Hampshire through Police Chief Bill Hart, he said.

Marceau had reviewed Londonderry's zoning regulations and said his business would meet them. "It is an 'incidental and secondary' business, which would operate from my garage and spare bedroom," he said. The business would take up 8 percent of his living space and he would be the only employee, Marceau said.

In addition, he said, he would not put up a sign and would not publish his address on his website.

Marceau did his own homemade traffic study, sitting on his steps for several weeknights and counting the cars. He counted  an average of 10 cars per night, he said, and the smallest number he saw was seven, the largest 15. With a limit of two appointments per night, he said, he didn't see his business increasing traffic.

ZBA member Mike Gallagher quizzed Marceau on his inventory, saying, "How much inventory will you keep at the house? Will you have 'product' on display?"

"The only inventory," Marceau said, "is the inventory I take to gun shows."

Alternate Jay Hooley asked him, "You will not do retail on site?"

"I will be only doing repairs on site. No retail," Marceau responded.

'Quiet neighborhood'

Board member Jim Smith, acting as chair in the absence of Chairman Matt Neuman, asked if any members of the public were in support of the special exception. When no one responded, he opened the floor to residents critical of the plan.

Mary Raymond of 16 Wilshire had several questions for Marceau, including the size of his inventory, the size of his personal collection, and whether the inventory would be on display.

"I have a 10-year-old daughter who is with me every other weekend," Marceau said. "I have a personal collection of 14 firearms, which I keep locked up."

He said his inventory would not be out for public perusal. "When a customer comes, I'll have one weapon out, and that's the one I'm working on for them," he said.

Raymond and her neighbor Rebecca Doherty, of 29 Wilshire, were concerned that Marceau's customers would get lost and knock on their doors.

Smith responded, "One of the problems in this town is that people do not want to keep their street numbers posted on their homes. That's the reason we have street numbers, so people can locate other people's homes."

Doherty also worried that Marceau's customers would park on the street, and that her three children would see people leaving his house with their guns.

"We live in a violent society," she said. "You can't do this in a quiet neighborhood."

Karen Beliveau, a 36-year resident at 14 Wilshire, said, "I don't mind a driver getting lost.  I do mind a person with an M-16 rifle wandering about my neighborhood."

Beliveau said a gun shop in Londonderry would attract undesirable types from Massachusetts. "There's definitely a problem over the border," she said, "and we know which town it is."

Resident Jocelyn Kane of 21 Wilshire said, "I like that Mr. Marceau is making all these efforts to have this done safely, properly." But she wondered what the turnaround time would be if the special exception were approved, and a neighbor later had a complaint.

Smith told her it had to be a repeated pattern of offenses before the town could shut down a business. "It has to be proven, you have to substantiate what's going on," he said.

Building Inspector Richard Canuel summarized the process he follows after a complaint: "I make contact with the person, there's a site visit, and then I verify if the complaint is valid."

On its merits

The board closed the public hearing and went into its own deliberations. "I think," Smith said, "that we have to look at this case on its own merits. The issue we have to look at is, does it or does it not meet the criteria for a home occupation?"

Board member and clerk Neil Dunn wasn't happy with the traffic study, pointing out that two more cars a day would be an average of 12 and one more car a day would be an average of 11. "That's a 10 percent to 20 percent increase," he said.

Dunn also shared the neighbors' concern of a customer going to the wrong house.

"Would it be a traffic problem if it was a hair salon and they had two customers a day?" Hooley responded.

Smith went over the special exception worksheet, noting that Marceau had met all the conditions and done more. "It's unusual," he said, "for an applicant to go to this level of preparation."

Dunn also expressed concern about the "repair" and "retail" aspects of the exception, asking if Marceau would be repairing the receiver of a gun. "In my mind," he said, "replacing the receiver makes it a new gun" and a retail sale.

Dunn made a motion to deny the special exception, on the basis of traffic impact and the safety concerns of the neighbors. It did not receive a second.

Hooley made a motion to approve the special exception with the following conditions: that the Federal Firearms License and all other licenses be maintained; that an alarm be installed, maintained and monitored; that there is no on-site retail sales; that the customer drop-off and pick-up be limited to the listed hours; that all guns have safety locks; that customers arrive by appointment only; and that the number of his house be clearly marked.

Gallagher seconded the motion and it was approved 3-1, with Dunn the dissenting vote.

Glenn Douglas
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