Harrison County

A ‘black eye’ for Gulfport? Officials, residents split over pawn shop shooting range

A zoning change approved Tuesday by the City Council will allow the owner Dad’s Super Pawn on U.S. 49 to build an indoor shooting range there if the project is approved by the council.

The zoning change passed by a 4-3 vote to allow shooting ranges in Industrial 1 and 2 zoning districts, in addition to the three zones where they already are permitted.

In favor of the change were council members Ron Roland, Rusty Walker, Myles Sharp and Cara Pucheu. Against the change were Kenneth “Truck” Casey, Ella Holmes-Hines and R. Lee Flowers.

Kevin Riley, owner of Dad’s Super Pawn, said he wants to add a 20,000-square-foot shooting range at the back of his property.

Commenting on objections he’d heard since he revealed those plans, Riley said that with technology today, the shooting range would be totally encapsulated on the property and would be quiet and safe.

“You’re going to hear no noise,” he told the council. “I would encourage the board to look at this as a positive thing for the city,” he said.

Neighbors not swayed

Sandra Wyche said there was a drive-by shooting in her neighborhood on Sunday that prompted her to close her business early.

She asked, “Why do we need to train people to shoot more guns?” and later said, “This is frightening. You shouldn’t have to be afraid in a place where you live.”

Cody Wilson has filed an objection to the zoning change and said after Tuesday’s vote, “I’m going to file an appeal.”

He said those who live just beyond 160 feet from the area of the zoning change weren’t notified of the planning commission hearing. But he said the sound from a shooting range would extend more than 160 feet. He operates an automotive shop 200 feet from the proposed shooting range and said there are families nearby and the city doesn’t have any building codes in place to regulate shooting ranges.

Council members split

Holmes-Hines spread out maps to show the other council members where the Industrial 1 and 2 areas are in the city. She said the city did an extensive study on where shooting ranges should be located in 2014, when a multi-million dollar range was proposed on Industrial Seaway.

She supported that location, she said, but on U.S. 49, with neighborhoods close by and where tourists will pass when coming to the aquarium and Jones park, “It does not fit,” she said.

Flowers pointed out that three media outlets were at the meeting and said Gulfport will take a public relations hit. The black eye on Gulfport will come not just from this meeting, he said, but again when Dad’s goes to seek a permit, when the project goes to the planning commission and when it is appealed to court.

He also brought up that Pucheu was a grade-school friend of Riley and that may be why she proposed the zoning change.

“That’s ridiculous,” Pucheu said. At the end of the meeting she asked for time to say that she grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and knows or has had business relationships with about half the people in the council room.

Looking ahead

The council members who voted for the zoning change said they are in favor of bringing more business to the city. Sharp said many areas of the city have property that’s been vacant for years. He proposed each council member take a look at their wards and what they would like to see.

Richard Marsh, who serves on the Coastal Mississippi tourism board, asked the council members to “be mindful. If you don’t want it in your ward, please don’t bring it to my ward,” he said.

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.