Lincolnwood gun shop’s expansion bid draws fire
Shore Galleries Inc., a gun shop at 3318 W. Devon Ave. in Lincolnwood, is considering moving to 6950 N. Central Park Ave. in Lincolnwood to open a 30,000-square-foot gun shop and 16-lane firing range. The proposal went before the Village Board July 17, but trustees returned the matter to the Planning Commission, which earlier had recommended changing zoning laws to allow the move. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 29, 2012 4:42PM
A proposal to amend municipal ordinances to allow a longtime Lincolnwood gun shop to expand its business has some residents up in arms about the potential negative impact of less-restrictive zoning.
Shore Galleries Inc., described on its website as a “law enforcement supplier and distributor,” received support last month from the Village Plan Commission for several variances that would accommodate its plans to relocate and expand from its current location, at 3318 W. Devon Ave., to 6950 Central Park Ave.
Though firearms dealers are prohibited in Lincolnwood, Shore Galleries has been allowed to operate under a grandfather clause, but only at its current location, according to Lincolnwood Community Development Director Tim Clark.
In order for the gun shop to relocate and expand its services to include an indoor firing range, classrooms, office space and locker rooms, village officials must make several concessions, including adding a text amendment to the zoning code to allow firearms dealers; giving Shore Galleries special use approval; minimizing off-street parking requirements; and reducing the distance a firearms dealer must be located from a school or public park from one-half mile (or 2,640 feet) to 800 feet.
“The current demands exceed the capacity of (Shore Galleries’) current space,” states an application to the village from petitioner Michael Shore, owner of the gun shop. “Without the ability to relocate, Shore Galleries will need to pursue other locations outside the village to accommodate their business.”
Shore was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
Trustees are expected to vote on the commission’s recommendation at the July 17 board meeting. If accepted, Clark said, district attorneys will make the requested changes to the ordinances, which board members would them have to vote to adopt.
Some worry the gun shop proposal has flown under the radar and is without meaningful input from residents.
Michael Shapiro, owner of an art studio adjacent to the property, Shore Galleries seeks, said he was the only resident at the Plan Commission’s public hearing on the matter in late May.
“I am shocked how little people in the area are aware of this,” he said. “As a small business owner I am concerned.”
Shapiro suspects if more people knew what was being asked of the village, they would question the process, too.
The potentially new site of the gun shop sits just east of the School District 74 campus and within close proximity of a future bike path.
Though Shapiro is “ambivalent towards guns,” he said, he is rallying residents and community organizations to express their disapproval of the proposal.
As of June 26, an online petition asking trustees and Mayor Jerry Turry to vote “no” to a new public gun range collected 63 signatures.
Other than that the gun shop’s proposal has evoked few comments by residents in a public arena.
District 74 School Board President Scott Anderson said he was not aware of the Shore Galleries request until Shapiro and the district’s Parent-Teacher Organization contacted him in mid-June.
Anderson, who was recently appointed lead the controversy-stricken district, said he had no intention get involved in the matter.
Besides Shapiro’s presence at the Plan Commission meeting, Lincolnwood Parks and Recreation Board member Judith Schneider is the only other resident to step forward and vocalize her concerns in a public forum.
She addressed trustees at a village board meeting on June 19 to say she was “stunned to learn about the proposal.”
“It was designed to restrict (Shore Galleries) then,” she said of zoning laws. “It was designed to restrict them now.”
Schneider questioned why Lincolnwood was bending over backwards for the arms dealer when it had turned away businesses that couldn’t comply with village ordinance, especially in regards to parking and street access regulations.
“I never in all my years in Lincolnwood have ever seen us let anyone get away with anything less than maximum parking,” she said.
Her lengthy comments prompted Turry to pound the gavel several times to signify her time was up.
Clark said when national issues play out on a local level, meetings tend to become contentious.
He said he understand residents’ concerns for public safety, especially in areas where children learn and play.
But Schneider’s point about the gun shop’s proximity to the bike path may be a separate matter: the proposed path winds through areas zone residential and industrial, Clark said.
“The logic is that you want to keep (gun use) farther from where people congregate and recreate,” Clark said. “Whether that extends to the bike trail is one matter. The congregation of people is different that people traveling on bike.”
Regardless, between Shore Galleries’ debut in 1956 through today, the village had not encountered any issues with its line of business, Clark said.
“(Shoreline’s) track record in our community is one of utmost safety,” he said.