LACEY TOWNSHIP – After a lengthy meeting Monday night, the Lacey Zoning Board of Adjustment shot down a Forked River ammunition store owner’s request for a variance to sell firearms at his Route 9 store, despite members of the public testifying in support of the application. The small business owner alleges the board is violating his 2nd amendment rights and that Lacey land use officials are inconsistently applying the township’s zoning laws.
Bill Malcolm did not mince words after Monday’s zoning board meeting. “They’re violating their own ordinances, they’re violating the law, they’re discriminating against me,” alleged the owner of The Jersey Sportsman after the public hearing on his application for a use variance. “Nowhere in that zoning law does it say that firearms trade is prohibited.”
The Monday night meeting saw Malcolm’s variance application rejected for a second time by a vote of the Lacey Zoning Board of Adjustment. Malcolm applied for the variance after being told by the township’s zoning officer that selling firearms was not an approved use in the C-150 zone in which the property is located, and that he would have to successfully obtain a variance in order to be approved to sell firearms.
After a career in law enforcement, the retiree opened his Forked River storefront in 2015, he opened his store and was given permission to sell ammunition after receiving state and federal certifications. Malcolm’s business was well-received by Lacey residents, several of whom appeared to testify in support of the variance.
While he has had no problem obtaining state and federal firearms approvals, Malcolm has continually butted heads with Lacey Township officials over his plan to sell firearms from the store.
Chris Reid: Lacey Residents Can Buy Guns Elsewhere, Not A 2nd Amendment Issue
Former Lacey Republican Club president Chris Reid, in his new role as the township’s director of community development despite his background as a lawyer, claimed that the decision is up to the zoning board to determine whether or not Malcolm’s application is consistent with the intent of the zoning ordinance.
Mr. Reid argued that since firearms sales were not something explicitly denoted as permissible in the zoning ordinance, the decision would be up to the zoning board to determine whether or not Malcolm’s variance would be in compliance with both the intent of the township’s zoning laws and the master plan.
Mr. Reid contended that there are alternatives available to Lacey residents seeking to purchase firearms, and told Malcolm that he could apply to sell guns out of his house. To that suggestion, Malcolm retorted that he’s already having issues trying to get approval to sell the guns in a commercial zone, a comment which drew laughs and cheers from the audience directed at the exchange with Reid.
Malcolm’s lawyer, Christopher Supsie, disagreed with Reid and said that plenty of other businesses not explicitly defined in the ordinance already exist within the same zone along Route 9. He also pointed to the fact that Fish Bonz, another C-150 zoned storefront, was granted the same approval to sell firearms without having to go through the ordeal of obtaining a variance. Supsie also said that multiple Lacey residents are lawfully selling firearms over the internet from home based businesses.
At recent zoning board meetings, the board has struggled to have a full quorum of membership present to vote. At Monday’s meeting, zoning board members Lou Kosco, Craig Tomalo and Lawrence Gudgeon voted in favor of granting the ammunition store owner the variance.
Joseph Appello and Al Nappi (another Lacey Republican Club official) were not present at the zoning board meeting, leaving alternate members James LeTellier and Ed Scanlon in their place. Mr. LeTellier voted yes, while Mr. Scanlon voted no. Also voting no was Colleen Bradley and Maryanne DeFranco.
While the 4-3 vote was a majority of members present at Monday’s meeting, for the type of variance being sought, state law requires 5 “yes” votes of the board’s membership in order for the variance to be granted, which failed to happen.
“Do You Think They’re In Cahoots?”
Once the lengthy meeting finally adjourned, some of the zoning board members and township land use employees were observed having dinner together at Caffrey’s, a popular bar in Forked River. Coincidentally, those who were seen together after the meeting were the same “naysayers,” that opposed the variance, according to Mr. Malcolm, who provided the picture to Ocean County Politics. “I think there may be other factors that are going on behind closed doors, but I can tell you that it’s not over,” Malcolm said.
Supporters of allowing gun sales alleged that one board member has a personal bias against allowing the store to sell guns, because the unidentified zoning board member purportedly lived in close proximity to Newtown, Connecticut, where an infamous school shooting sparked a national debate over gun regulations.
As to the land use officials being seen out together after the meeting, he questioned “Do you think they’re in cahoots?” Malcolm has not ruled out suing the township and pursuing other legal avenues in light of Monday’s setback.