HomeCrimePlanning Board slated to approve proposed gun shop

Planning Board slated to approve proposed gun shop


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WESTFORD — A gun shop proposal, which has received overwhelming public comment from residents, is slated for final approval at Monday night’s Planning Board meeting.

The board would review and approve its draft decision, which would authorize a change in use from Professional Office to Light Manufacturing at the 359 Littleton Rd. property.

Gun shop searches for new home

Jeffery Steinbrecher, a Boston-based attorney and owner of Legal Arms Co., has plans to convert 600-square-feet on the second floor of the property, which also houses Ledgeview Graphics and Printing.

Legal Arms Co. formerly housed within “The Mill,” a building which housed a collection of over 80 gun shops in Littleton’s downtown, with it serving as the largest collection of federally licensed gun dealerships in the country.

According to reporting from the Boston Globe, Jim Finnerty, a product manager at a manufacturing company and principal leaseholder to half of the gun tenants at the Mill, served Steinbrecher an eviction notice after the Globe raised questions about the firearms he was selling.

Steinbrecher noted in a Feb. 6 Planning Board meeting that his lease ended as of Feb. 1.

Steinbrecher acknowledged WestfordCAT’s email for comment, but did not respond to a follow-up from WestfordCAT for clarification. Finnerty did not respond to an email for comment on the eviction notice.

After Littleton’s Annual Town Meeting on Feb. 15, new zoning bylaws were enacted that create an uncertain future for the collection of dealerships.

What is the proposed shop? 

Steinbrecher noted that though Legal Arms Co. is a “side business,” it still “means a lot to him” and hopes to find a new home in Westford.

“I have always enjoyed building things, I did Lego with my father, I built motorcycle engines with my older brother and computers when they came around,” Steinbrecher said. “I became interested in firearms about seven years ago when I got my LTC.”

He notes his business would be tailored to custom-made firearms.

“I’m not interested in selling $250 Saturday Night Specials, or even interested in having a walk-in business,” he said. “I plan to have an appointment-only business where everyone is checked out before they come in.”

The business does not have immediate plans to sell ammunition.

Steinbrecher holds a local dealer’s license and a federal firearms license. The business is also required to host annual inspections from the Westford Police Department.

A representative from the Westford Police Department was not in attendance during the Feb. 6 meeting to provide clarity on the department’s inspections. When asked about the department’s absence, Westford Police directed WestfordCAT to the joint statement released by the town.

However, Westford Police Chief Chambers was available to answer questions during both a Feb. 14 and Feb. 28 Select Board meeting.

Planning Board has “little recourse” to reject project

According to Director of Land Use Management Jeffery Morrissette, the board has little legal recourse to reject the project.

“Site plan review cannot be used to deny a project, only shape it,” Morrissette said during a Feb. 6 meeting. “Our own zoning bylaw says the Planning Board will review and approve with conditions they deem appropriate within 60 days of receipt of the application. They don’t have a lot of discretion here.”

The site plan review is conditioned on having a security plan approved by the Westford Police Department prior to the issuance of the building permit.

The board can, however, waive or modify its filing fee of $3,000. Steinbrecher requested the board lower the filing fee to $500, but citing increased costs to the Westford Police Department, the board approved a $1,500 filing fee for Steinbrecher.

The town is, however, looking to update its zoning bylaws to address concerns from residents. Westford’s draft bylaw mirror’s Littleton’s bylaw — placing limitations on where a firearms shop can operate within the town.

The proposal — which could not be added to the Annual Town Meeting warrant — is slated to appear this fall during Special Town Meeting.

“We are contemplating something for fall town meeting,” said Morrissette.

Residents cite “safety issues” to Planning Board

A number of residents oppose the proposed shop, citing fears of an increase in gun violence in the region.

“As studies demonstrate that gun shops in town cause more problems with gun death and violence. We will have an increase to other responders, this will cause problems in our town,” resident Stephanie Granger said. “If you cannot ban it, don’t make it easy for him and others.”

Resident MJ McKeown shared a similar sentiment.

“We are a military family, we moved here two years ago. I am also a veteran, Air Force Security Forces, I used to handle weapons myself,” she said.

She continued, “I do not feel comfortable living near a weapons shop. We moved here to Westford because of how safe everybody said it was.”

A number of concerned parents cited concerns of the location of the proposed shop, which is approximately two miles from the Col. John Robinson Elementary School.

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Ben Domaingue
Ben Domainguehttps://www.clippings.me/bendomaingue
Ben Domaingue has previously worked at newspapers in New Hampshire and is the Managing Editor covering Westford. He’s passionate about community journalism, photography and hiking. Email him at bdomaingue@westfordcat.org.

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