Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Editorials

Spring Hill residential neighborhood is wrong place for gun dealership

Gun peddlers shouldn't be selling their wares in a residential community, and Hernando County commissioners should re-evaluate the intrusion of a commercial enterprise into a Spring Hill neighborhood.

In December, the county's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously granted Paul Hargis permission to operate his home-based gun dealership, with specific conditions that he have no more than one customer per day and operate by appointment only during weekday hours.

Hargis needed county authorization, known as a special exception use permit, because he will have customers entering and leaving his home in an area not accustomed to that traffic — a residential neighborhood. His application describes the business as operating on a referral basis only. Hargis told the county he will special order firearms from manufacturers, take delivery at his house and then hold them until customers come to complete the transactions.

In his application, Hargis said he hopes to expand his business eventually to a storefront operation in a commercial district. Frankly, that is where he should start. This isn't a Second Amendment debate about the right to bear arms. Rather, the county needs to give greater credence to neighbors objecting to commercial operations in a residential area — the very definition of improper spot zoning.

Neighbors, citing safety and traffic concerns, vow to ask county commissioners to review the planning and zoning panel's decision. Commissioners should do so, and they should pay particular attention to the minutes of the Dec. 12 planning and zoning board's meeting. Part of the rationalization for the approval was that the county has previously authorized gunsmiths to operate home-based businesses. There is a big difference, however. Past approvals for home-based gun repair businesses did not allow customers to pick up or drop off their firearms. In other words, customer traffic was prohibited.

It is reasonable then to mandate the same requirement for home-based gun dealers. Hargis' customers shouldn't be allowed to intrude into the neighborhood, particularly since the conditions spelled out by the Planning and Zoning Commission are unenforceable. Exactly who from the county will monitor whether Hargis takes deliveries or transacts business with gun owners after hours, on weekends or more than once a day?

This business should operate in a properly zoned commercial district, not from the dining room of a home in a residential neighborhood.

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