An indoor gun range in Clovis is the center of a fight over property rights that has city officials searching for a fair solution.
Homeowners say daily gunfire from The Firing Line has shattered the peace in their neighborhood near Shields and Clovis avenues. The constant sound of "pop, pop, pop" has devalued homes, caused residents to lose sleep and kept scared children from going outside, they said.
"It's nerve-wracking," said Bruce Meredith, whose home is within 25 yards of the shooting range. "It blows my mind that the city has allowed it to operate."
Long-forgotten (until now) zoning laws in an unusual part of Clovis helped produce this rub of houses and guns.
Now nearby homeowners want the city to shut down The Firing Line -- a drastic step the Clovis Planning Commission could recommend when it considers the complaints at a special hearing Monday.
That's not fair, said Firing Line owner Jacob Belemjian, who has support from nearby business owners. He said he's been operating under the rules since opening last March: "It's like they're trying to write me a speeding ticket when I'm not speeding."
On the border
The light industrial park that's home to The Firing Line feels like Fresno -- because for all intents it is. The area north of Shields and just east of Clovis Avenue has some two dozen buildings, mostly home to automotive paint shops and construction-related businesses. The enormous Duncan Ceramics campus anchors the area, which is also home to the Fresno County Sheriff's Area 4 headquarters.
Most of the businesses are in the city of Fresno.
Then there's the seven buildings on the north side of Dayton Avenue, on the northern edge of the industrial area. Those businesses, including Paterson Paint and The Firing Line, are in Clovis. And they're tucked right against a tidy tract of typical Clovis homes. A brick wall serves as the tract's back fence; at The Firing Line, there's a small strip planter, a row of parking spaces and a driveway between the wall and the shooting range.
Belemjian said it's not his fault his neighbors purchased their homes near an industrial area. "They rolled the dice and bought it anyway," he said.
Clovis city staff say the industrial area has been around since at least the 1970s. The zoning permits manufacturing, processing and fabrication. "Shooting ranges are permissible," a staff report says, but ranges are subject to a conditional use permit.
Meredith, who has lived in his home for 26 years, said diesel trucks and machinery don't compare to someone shooting in the direction of the homes. "I prefer not to be a target," he said.
He blamed the City Council for putting the neighborhood in its current predicament.
In 1983, a City Council dealing with Clovis' growing suburban appeal approved a General Plan amendment that allowed a housing tract next to the industrial area. The homes were built between 1985 and 1987, the staff report says.
Because the industrial area was approved long before the residential tract, the staff report says, "all residents were on notice that their neighborhood adjoined an industrial area."
But the report also says: "Prior to the approval of The Firing Line, there were few complaints from neighbors about the industrial uses. Those concerns were resolved without the need for any formal action."
Times have changed
That's not the case now.
The neighbors have banded together and put out about 50 yellow yard signs that say: "Restore our Peace! Stop the Gun Noise!!"
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