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Panel OKs zoning changes for firearm sales, drive-thru speakers

The plan commission's recommendation means firearm sales could be permitted in more places and drive-thru businesses could face new restrictions in the city.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The plan commission is recommending a pair of zoning ordinance changes that would allow firearms to be sold in highway commercial zones and regulate the use of drive-thru speakers near residential properties.

Currently, firearm sales are only allowed in the central business district and manufacturing zones, and the city has no regulations for the use of drive-thru speakers.

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Firearms

The change to the highway commercial zone would simply allow firearms sales as a permitted use.

Patricia Kukull, owner of Superior Shooter’s Supply, said the ordinance change could help her. Currently located in a light manufacturing district, she said she hadn’t realized the zoning limitations until she started looking for a new location.

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“We are, after all, a city in the middle of a wonderful forest, next to a great lake, and we’re known for hunting and fishing,” Kukull said.

Kukull said it would help her and anyone who wants to start a firearms business to expand the areas where the business could be located.

Commissioner Garner Moffat questioned whether a special-use permit could be an option rather than changing the zoning code. He was the only commissioner to vote against the proposed change on Wednesday, May 18.

Drive-thru speakers

Regulations proposed for drive-thru speakers would affect any business that shares a property line or is across an alley from a residentially-used or zoned property. The speaker box and drive-thru window must be at least 50 feet from any property line with a residential structure. Hours of operation would be restricted based on the distance from a residential structure and sound attenuation, and landscaping would be encouraged as part of the buffering requirements.

Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director, said he would prefer the requirements be added to the landscape and buffering ordinance rather than creating the regulations under a special-use permit. That would give the city the ability to regulate it when businesses are seeking building permits, he said.

The commission approved adding it to the ordinance rather than creating a special use to regulate it.

“This ordinance doesn’t cover existing businesses at all,” Mayor Jim Paine said.

Moffat questioned whether that would give existing businesses a competitive advantage because they wouldn’t be under the same restrictions.

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One thing the ordinance doesn’t address is the orientation of the speaker, said Commissioner Ann Porter. She said it would be desirable to orient speakers away from residential properties.

The commission amended the ordinance to include language that requires orientation away from residential properties wherever possible.

Commissioner Brent Fennessey said he had reservations about limiting the hours of operation for businesses that can achieve their drive-thru operations without impacting their neighbors.

The ordinance wouldn’t apply to businesses that aren’t adjacent to residential properties, Paine said.

Both ordinance changes will be considered June 7 by the Superior City Council.

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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