Some two months after a gun retailer issued claims against San Carlos alleging city officials took fraudulent and biased actions in the lead-up to their decision to approve a temporary moratorium on new gun stores in November, councilmembers voted to deny the company’s claims.
Their rejection Monday of the allegations outlined in a March 29 letter gives Turner’s Operations — which the city believes operates Turner’s Outdoorsman sporting goods stores — six months to file a lawsuit with the city if the company chooses to pursue further litigation but does not preclude the city from working with the company to resolve the dispute, said City Attorney Greg Rubens.
Included among the allegations in the store’s letter is a claim city officials misled the company by giving it permission to proceed with opening a store at 1123 Industrial Road and then enacting a moratorium on new gun stores that brought the plans to a standstill, which the company says cost some $295,310 in alleged damages from lease-termination obligations, planning and construction costs as well as lost profits, according to the claim.
At their Oct. 23 meeting, councilmembers opted to review a moratorium on new gun stores when several residents stepped forward with safety concerns about the Turner’s Outdoorsman store set to open in November. In response to an outpouring of concern from hundreds of San Carlos residents in subsequent meetings, officials approved a temporary moratorium at their Nov. 13 meeting and extended it for up to another 10 months and 15 days later that month.
Aimed at giving officials and residents time to study rules regulating gun shops, the council’s ruling also halted the retailer’s plans to open its 22nd location in a mall where REI, Office Depot and Road Runner Sports have operated.
At the beginning of April, the Southern California-based retailer terminated its lease at the store location, according to a staff report.
Mayor Bob Grassilli said officials have yet to receive word from representatives of the store regarding efforts to resolve the dispute and welcomed them to participate in a community effort to scope how rules regulating gun shops in San Carlos could be shaped and implemented, a stated objective of officials when they voted 4-1 to approve the temporary bans in November, with Councilman Matt Grocott voting against the measures.
“We’re still working on our rules and regulations,” said Grassilli. “It’s a little bit drawn out, but it gets everyone involved … you want to make sure what’s written down is something we’re going to be able to work with and live with on all sides.”
Grassilli said input gathered from community meetings this month will help determine whether officials consider regulations for firearms retailers later this year. Rubens said any potential regulations would be reviewed in public hearings by the Planning Commission and City Council, and that dates for those meetings have yet to be determined.
At the council’s Nov. 13 meeting, Bill Ortiz, vice president of compliance at Turner’s Outdoorsman, said the company had already taken out a 10-year lease and invested more than $125,000 to make improvements on the space after following San Carlos requirements for businesses selling guns. He went on to encourage councilmembers to think about the possibility of legal action taken by his company and the loss in city tax revenue should their decision delay the store’s opening.
“We would not go down that road and not go down that lease had we known that there was something that would be changing,” said Ortiz, at the Nov. 13 meeting.
Though demolition of the space where the Turner’s Outdoorsman store was to open had commenced before the company terminated its lease, city officials had not received building permits for demolition or remodeling from the company.
Ortiz confirmed in an email the company had no further comments on the council’s decision to deny the claim.
Visit opentownhall.com/portals/190/forum_home before June 15 to submit online feedback on whether San Carlos should regulate firearms retailers.
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