Feb. 29, 2012 | Residents in Ashland were just 54 feet from having a gun and ammunition shop approved for their area. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday overturned a ruling last December by a local zoning board that would have allowed Valley Guns & Ammo to move into the unincorporeated area.
The board cited county surveyors who measured the distance between the proposed gun shop was within the the 500 feet accepted boundary from a residential zoning district. Despite the measurement, the West County Board of Zoning and Adjustments approved the plan late last year. The nearby San Lorenzo Village Homeowners Association quickly appealed the decision.
Three Central Valley businessmen had planned to open the shop at 488 Lewelling Boulevard near Hesperian Boulevard. They came to the board Tuesday afternoon armed with the support of local law enforcement, including testimony from former Alameda County Sheriff Charlie Plummer.
Steve Nobriga, one of the prospective owners, told the board his business has the support of over 200 active and retire police officers. "I'm frustrated," he said. "I think it's good thing for us and the community."
William Burns, an attorney for Valley Guns & Ammo, said without the shop, "people will resort to transferring firearms at garage sells and flea markets."
Art Wydler, the president of the San Lorenzo Village Homeowners Association, said the group had no intention of blocking the gun business from the area if it met all zoning requirements, but that wasn't the case, he said. "It does not meet the 500 feet rule," Wydler said. "Our objection is the county granting a variance based on a decision we don't believe are legitimate reasons."
Wydler also charged the zoning board with focusing too narrowly on glowing testimony, by Plummer and others, for the character of the prospective owners over the county's own measurements. "Its up to the the board of supervisors to listen to your own staff or someone with outside influences," said Wydler.
Aside from bureaucratic talk of zoning and measurements, the issue also elicited pointed concern by local residents who fear more guns in their neighborhoods. "Why a gun shop? Why not something else?" asked Roy Terry, a youth advocate working in the area.
"I don't like the idea of people buying guns and driving around my community," added a San Lorenzo resident.
Lamont Thompson, another youth advocate, questioned the local roots of the prospective owners and wonders what message it conveys to young people when a gun shop and medical marijuana dispensary could be located between two high schools.
"Most of the people that came up in favor of the gun store don't even live in this community," said Thompson. "If we're complaining about our society and we have a gun store and a weed shop down the street, what does that say? Take that business somewhere else because we've got out own problems and we don't need no gun store adding to the problem."