Clovis City Council backs gun range despite neighbor complaints

The Fresno BeeOctober 21, 2013 

Fred Armijo urges the Clovis City Council to reject the conditional use permit for The Firing Line gun range on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013.

MARC BENJAMIN / THE FRESNO BEE

Residents of a south Clovis neighborhood say are still unable to adjust to having a gun range near their home, but City Council members Monday night said the range owner made significant progress in reducing noise and they allowed him to stay open.

The council's 4-1 decision follows the Clovis Planning Commission's support last month. Mayor Lynne Ashbeck voted no.

Council members said Jacob Belemjian, the owner of The Firing Line, was meeting the requirements of his permit and not exceeding noise limits.

The permit was approved two years ago, but shortly after the business opened in March 2012, neighbors living north of the industrial building at 1173 Dayton Ave. began complaining to the city about loud, sharp gunfire noise.

Earlier this year, the Clovis City Council required Belemjian to make changes to the building to reduce noise spilling from his building.

More than a dozen neighbors on the surrounding blocks have yard signs opposing the gun range. Many of them attended Monday night's City Council meeting.

Neighbors say there has not been a significant reduction in noise despite the requirements.

"Mr. Belemjian should be ashamed of himself for what he has done to the people of this neighborhood," said Tim Kelley, who lives behind the gun range. "The Firing Line is guilty of disturbing the peace."

Bruce Meredith said neighbors have to disclose that the gun range is nearby if they try to sell their homes and their property is losing value because of it. He said his neighbor has already lowered his price $5,000 and his real estate agent said the home's value has been diminished by up to $15,000.

"There has been some improvement in the noise," he said, "but it's not good enough."

City officials said that even before improvements were made to the building, Belemjian's business complied with the city's noise ordinance.

Consultant Jeff Hall, who conducted the noise measurements, said that sounds coming from Belemjian's building fell within ranges that were low enough that other noise in the neighborhood masked the gun range sounds.

Belemjian said he spent more than $100,000 on improvements to reduce noise.

"I can't make them happy," he said of his neighbors after the meeting. "The only way they would be happy is if we were silent, but then they would hear the noise from everything else around them."

City officials say Belemjian made a good-faith effort to reduce noise from his business and that he is operating within the city's conditions for approval.

"What's before us is whether this place is legal," said Council Member Jose Flores. "Two experts have come before us to tell us that the sound levels are still below the standards that we set."

Council Member Bob Whalen said the council can't go back 30 years and rezone the area so industrial land would not be next to homes and they also can't use different noise standards.

"The conditions we put on Mr. Belemjian at the time, he has met," Whalen said.

But Ashbeck, who opposed the gun range, said the city created the problem: "It's wrong for us to say you can live with it ... I cannot live with the fact that we have created this angst."

Even with the reduced noise, the city offered to assist residents adjacent to the gun range by adding two feet to the cement block wall separating the gun range and the residences and reimbursing up to $2,500 for double-pane windows in six homes.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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