A small agenda still produced a good deal of discussion at Friday’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
While just four items were on the schedule Friday, a number of citizens turned out to express their concerns before the board. Two items involved applicants seeking approval for gun sales from their homes.
County Planner Tom Brashear told the board that he and County Attorney Mike Jennings had been in discussion with officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and “what we could glean from the conversation was, it is more or less a courtesy because regardless of what our opinion is, they can issue a permit.
“We can regulate time, place and manner of those activities. I think there is something to us remaining consistent because it’s a controversial issue depending on what neighborhood you’re in.”
Brashear noted that many complaints come from individuals that live in areas with large numbers of children.
“Having [hours of operation] at a time when children are not typically in the area” was a recommendation from planning staff.
Applicant John Fleming, a Lebanon resident, had his request approved with stipulations.
“I recommend approval if nothing goes on outside the residence,” board Chair Rusty Thompson said. “No firing range, no signage.”
In the end, Fleming’s application was approved to be open two days a week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“I’d be in favor of placing these stipulations on any future applications,” Thompson said.
The second applicant seeking approval for the sale of firearms from a residence was Ray Brown. Brown has had a federal firearms license for 28 years and said he had spoken with the ATF and he was informed that “with small dealers like me, they don’t see any problems.” He noted that his sales are usually limited to two or three a year.
“I don’t want to upset my neighbors,” said Brown. “I’ve done 114 firearms in the 28 years I’ve had a license. I understand where my neighbors are coming from, not wanting guns in the neighborhood. I’m not out there trying to give guns to kids, but I do think they should be taught to respect firearms.”
Brown ultimately asked the board to withdraw his application.
The other controversial item on the agenda came in the form of a request from Rest Stop Ministries.
The ministry is seeking to establish a not-for-profit group home for women who are victims of human trafficking. According to planning staff, they are seeking a license from the state Department of Mental Health to become a “mental health supportive living facility.”
The board originally heard the request at its June meeting, and deferred action. Rondy Smith, the director of Rest Stop Ministries, told the board Friday, “we were deferred at that meeting to investigate the [Tennessee Code Annotated]. I did find that the Department of Mental Health did license our cause. At the very least, these women are suffering from [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].”
The request includes two properties and two houses. The first would be for the residents enrolled in the program and the second would serve as administrative offices.
One neighboring resident said “[Smith] indicates in her mission focus that there is no other facility like this. This is a commendable act, it’s the location we have a problem with.”
Another nearby neighbor, David Hughen, said “we think what she’s doing is a wonderful thing. We have a Christian Academy and the house is adjacent to our school family. This is a safe environment to our families and several parents have expressed concern on the location of the ministry.”
After several others expressed their concerns, planning staff gave a recommendation that the board defer action again until such time as the ministry receives a permit from the state.