Ammo manufacturer denied home permit

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Concerns over setting a precedent caused a split vote by the Vicksburg Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday, upholding a decision by zoning administrator Dalton McCarty to deny a business license to a Drummond Street resident who wants to manufacture and sell ammunition from his home.

McCarty denied the application because the city’s home-based occupation ordinance prohibits storing or using volatile materials in the business.

Four board members met Tuesday to hear the appeal by Dennis Coulter to operate his business, Ballistic Enterprise, which manufactures custom-loaded small arms ammunition, at his home at 3300 Drummond St.

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The board voted 2-1 to overrule McCarty’s decision, with members Tommie Rawlings opposing and Steven J. Jones abstaining. But a 4-0 vote was necessary to override McCar-ty. Board members Fred Katzenmeyer and Warren Jones, no relation to Steven Jones, supported overturning the denial.

Coulter said after the meeting he would review his options before deciding whether to appeal to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. He has 10 days to file the appeal.

Jones and Rawlings said they did not oppose Coulter’s plan, but wondered what effect reversing McCarty’s decision would have on the city’s zoning ordinances, which are currently being updated by the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District.

McCarty told the board that if it granted the license, “You would be setting a precedent and we would have to go to CMPDD and have them go back and rewrite the entire section of the code for home-based occupations.”

“I think that this is something that should go straight to the board, and they should decide,” Jones said.

“A lot of it (the ordinance) needs to be updated, I would like to see the ordinances more consistent,” Rawlings said. “I want to make sure everything we look at is legal.”

McCarty denied Coulter’s business license application because the city’s zoning ordinance for home-based occupations prohibited using or storing highly explosive, corrosive or combustible material on the property.

He also said the business involves retail sales, which also is prohibited in the ordinance except for occasional yard and garage sales.

Coulter, an engineer and senior technical instructor at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, said the business is a part-time occupation. He has a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms permit to manufacture and sell the ammunition that prohibits keeping more than 50 pounds of smokeless gunpowder at his home. He plans to keep about 40 pounds, he has said.

During his presentation to the board, he outlined his safety precautions, the safety of the powder and described the process of making the ammunition. He told the board he already has orders from two gun manufacturers for his ammunition, adding, “I could actually sell 1,000 rounds this afternoon.”

Coulter’s application was the only matter reviewed by the board.

An application by Wendelta Property Holdings of Memphis for a sign variance at the old Wendy’s at 2422 Clay St. was withdrawn before the meeting.

McCarty said Wendelta representative Don Sapp told him the company was going to follow the city’s sign ordinance for the building. He said the building will be used as a laudromat.