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Drive-thru zoning change OK'd, firearm proposal sent back to committee

The Superior City Council referred a proposal to allow firearm sales in highway commercial zones back to the plan commission.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The Superior City Council adopted one zoning change Tuesday, June 7, that would establish regulations for drive-thru speakers used near residential properties but sent another proposed zoning change back to committee.

The plan commission will again consider allowing firearm sales in highway commercial zones when it meets July 20.

Currently, firearm sales are permitted only in the central business district and manufacturing zones.

“I thought this wasn’t a good idea when it was proposed several weeks ago,” said Tom Ledin of South Superior. “Now, with recent events in our country, I think it’s an even worse idea. It seems gun violence is exploding in our large and small cities. You’ve seen the news. People are dying. Children are dying.”

Ledin said the city council was even considering withholding licenses from the Palace Bar, in part, due to gun violence.

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In May, the council set a public hearing to consider not renewing licenses for the Palace Bar at the request of Police Chief Nicholas Alexander. That hearing didn’t happen Tuesday after the license applications were withdrawn.

“Let’s not put our head in the sand and pretend it can’t happen here,” Ledin said.

Highway commercial districts are near schools, churches, grocery stores, bars and restaurants, parks, senior living facilities and a day care center, he said.

“I believe this change in policy is a public safety issue,” Ledin said. “I know there is little you can do as councilors to stop gun violence events, but one thing I believe you can do is not make it easier for these events to happen by allowing weapons to proliferate throughout our community.”

Councilor Mike Herrick proposed referring the ordinance change back to the plan commission.

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“I would like to keep everything the way it is because it’s working right now,” Herrick said.

Herrick would like the commission to consider creating a special use permit so the city can better control where firearm sales are allowed.

“The first thing I thought of was opening this door, like we did with these loan places, where they spring up here, here, here, and we have no control,” Herrick said.

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When payday and title loan establishments started cropping up in Superior in the early 2000s, the city and state didn’t have regulations to stop them from opening up. The city has since implemented regulations that limit where new similar establishments can open.

However, state law requires special use permits to be issued if all requirements are met, effectively limiting local control.

Drive-thru regulations

New businesses that operate a drive-thru service and are adjacent to or across the alley from a residentially used or zoned property will have to follow new regulations.

The speaker box and drive-thru window must be at least 50 feet from the residential property line, and hours of operation would be restricted based on the distance from a residential structure, sound attenuation and landscaping. Wherever possible, speakers would have to be oriented away from residential property.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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