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Conditional Use Permit decision delayed for Carlsbad business

CARLSBAD — City Council members were recently faced with a hearing about supporting the Carlsbad Planning Commission’s recommendation for denying a CUP (Conditional Use Permit) appeal for a local small business. 

In the end, the decision was to give the business, Gunther Gifts Inc., a continuance to October.

Gunther Gifts Inc., an e-commerce store located in a Planned Industrial Zone of Carlsbad, is requesting a CUP to convert 10 percent of its business to retail space and to include “retail” to its business license so it can sell firearms.

The e-commerce store, known for engraving knives and other gift items, is a 965-square-foot site located on Loker Avenue. It was established in 1999.

The building is owned by the business proprietors.

In 2011, Gunther Gifts, Inc. underwent an expansion to transfer, sell and store firearms. Although Gunther Gifts, Inc. was granted a Federal Firearms License from the Department of Justice, the delay is adding the word “retail” to their current business license.

The word “retail” and welcoming pedestrian traffic were problems for the planning commission because a CUP was not consistent with the General Plan.

“The online gift store is an allowed use because it does not generate any general public pedestrian or automobile traffic to the site,” said Chris DeCerbo, staff member at the city of Carlsbad. “The site and the surrounding areas have a General Planned Land Use and Zoning use designation of Planned Industrial.”

Lisa Gunther, co-owner of Gunther Gifts Inc., told City Council that since 1999 their website has served more than 300,000 online customers. More than 99 percent of their orders are generated on the web.

“We are seeking this retail CUP in order to expand our online business into online firearms,” Gunther said, adding that the city of Carlsbad has already granted them the business license to transfer, sell and store firearms for online sales. “The need for the CUP is that the state of California as well as suppliers require the word ‘retail’ on our business license before we can do business with this new website.”

Gunther pointed out that any firearm retail at their business site would be by appointment only. She also added that they would like to serve the local law enforcement in their community.

During the mid portion of the hearing, Carlsbad City Attorney Ronald Ball said that the problem was issuing a business license that was inconsistent with the zoning.

Gunther’s attorney, L. Sue Loftin, called the situation a language issue. She said what her clients wanted was a simple request.

“We are talking about the definition of retail,” Loftin said.

Loftin wanted City Council to know that “retail” on the Gunther’s business license meant it was needed for state and federal law to sell firearms.

Councilwoman Farrah Douglas supported the appeal because she believed it was not a traditional retail shop with major foot traffic.

“I would like to figure out a way to give you that retail designation without actually being a full retail store,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said. He added that if a retail permit were issued he would want to be certain that it was restricted to firearms and by appointments only.