City ignored Veterans for Peace settlement offer

The April 1 permit hearing drew a large crowd.

The April 1 permit hearing drew a large crowd. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

A settlement proposal that could have stopped litigation against the Juneau Planning Commission was never acknowledged by the city.

Juneau Chapter of Veterans for Peace on March 12 proposed the Planning Commission hold an additional hearing on the safety and health aspects of the Juneau Mercantile and Armory facility where semi-automatic, automatic and assault-style weapons will be sold or rented for shooting practice in an underground range.

Veterans for Peace appealed the facility’s permit, and the case was heard by the Juneau Assembly on April 1st.   Chapter President Phil Smith says the settlement would have ended the appeal and been an amicable solution.

“They would get their permit and we, the public, would end up with a comprehensive explanation of  how that place is going to work,” Smith says.

City Planner Greg Chaney is defending the case for the Planning Commission.

“If we had agreed to that, we would have been admitting that there was something inappropriately done in the past or that the decision was inappropriate.  And in both cases we strongly feel that everything was done appropriately,” he says.

The settlement proposal is similar to the veterans’ demands heard by the city Assembly.   But they also call for Juneau Mercantile and Armory owners to work with the chapter and CBJ Assembly to convene a task force to address firearms-related public health and safety measures in Juneau.

Chaney says he’s not opposed to a community conversation on gun safety, but it’s outside the purview of the Planning Commission, which can only address land-use issues.

Neither Chaney nor the gun range owners and their attorney responded to the veterans’ offer.  Chaney says the settlement came too late in the process and there wasn’t much incentive at that point to try to settle the case.  Though he calls the offer “extreme,”  he says the lack of response was an  oversight.

“We should have responded and I should apologize for that,” Chaney says.

In the settlement offer and at the April 1st hearing, Veterans for Peace argued that too little is known about the security features at the new armory, including background checks, firearms training, instructor qualifications and other safety issues.  The Planning Commission record barely addresses these issues, or any comments from local public safety officials, including Juneau police.

Chaney says they were carefully looked at, but city staff deliberately left the information out of the record because it detracts from the land-use issues the Planning Commission is responsible for deciding.

The Juneau Assembly will announce its decision in the case at the end of April.  It could remand the case back to the Planning Commission for rehearing, as requested by Veterans for Peace; let the Commission’s permit stand, or require some change in that permit.

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