City could update rules on shooting ranges

Proposed ordinance would require future public hearings, safety measures

Posted 12/3/18

Future shooting ranges in Littleton would have to go through a much stricter permit approval process under the terms of a draft ordinance in the early stages of consideration by city council. The …

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City could update rules on shooting ranges

Proposed ordinance would require future public hearings, safety measures

Posted

Future shooting ranges in Littleton would have to go through a much stricter permit approval process under the terms of a draft ordinance in the early stages of consideration by city council.

The proposal comes on the heels of a controversial planned shooting range on hiatus in the SouthPark neighborhood that spawned a flurry of litigation. Triple J Armory, a family-owned gun store, drew the ire of neighbors in summer 2018 after starting construction on a shooting range in a warehouse near McLellan Reservoir without city permits. After months of legal wrangling, the city issued a permit for the range, though the owners had not picked up the permit as of Nov. 29. Triple J has opened a retail store on the site.

Neighbors alleged the city's zoning codes and permit approval process were obsolete for dealing with shooting range applications in an increasingly densely populated city.

Shooting ranges would have to apply for conditional use permits and meet a variety of criteria before they could be approved, according to a draft of the ordinance presented at the Nov. 27 city council study session by city attorney Steve Kemp.

The ordinance would require a public hearing on all shooting range applications. Owners would be required to lock up all on-site guns in a safe or vault every night, as well as a variety of other safety and security measures. Shooting ranges would not be allowed immediately adjacent to residential zones.

“We'd see a police department review,” Kemp said. “We'd look at parking, at compatibility with adjacent uses. Many factors would be considered.”

Outdoor shooting ranges would face far stricter rules, including a setback of at least a mile from residences in the line of fire — a distance that Kemp said would effectively render almost the entire city off-limits.

The ordinance has a long way to go before final approval — next it will go to the city's Planning Commission, then go back before city council for hearings in February.

The ordinance would have no bearing on Triple J, which would be grandfathered into existing laws and permits, said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

Currently, shooting ranges are permitted under the city's “indoor recreation” use definitions, Kemp said, which apply to B-2 and B-3 zones, as well as in planned developments, which make up roughly half the city's 14 square miles.

The definition allowed Triple J to apply for a business license as a use by right, Kemp said, meaning the city had no recourse to hold public hearings on its approval.

The ordinance would be a welcome change, Brinkman said.

“Shooting ranges were never the intent for certain areas of the community,” Brinkman said. “The code we have was written many years ago, and clearly it's time we update it. I would hope people feel they have protection against they feel aren't appropriate near schools or children.”

It's too bad this process wasn't undertaken sooner, Brinkman said, but something had to trigger it.

“Cities don't just sit down and review all their codes in all their zones regularly,” Brinkman said. “There are unintended consequences that come up.”

As for Triple J, Brinkman said the city will strictly enforce noise and parking regulations around the shooting range.

The ordinance has the support of Highline Crossing, a “cohousing” community near Triple J's new location that led opposition to the range, said Rebecca Askew, Highline's HOA president.

“It's a step in the right direction, though it's a little late for our community,” Askew said. “I love the idea of a public hearing. I wish this scrutiny would've happened for our situation, but we want what's best for the city at large.”

Triple J Armory owner JD Murphree declined to comment for this article.

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