After more than two hours of public testimony, the Palmer City Council voted 5-2 to approve a noise permit for an indoor shooting range that’s proposed for the old Fred Meyer building near downtown Palmer.

More than 100 people turned out for the public comment period to voice their opinions about the proposal.

Valkyrie Security has plans to turn the 66,000-square foot facility into an indoor shooting range with a mix of public and private lanes, as well as a retail area and possibly gun manufacturing in the future. The building was vacated in early 2017 when Fred Meyer moved into a new store across the Glenn Highway.

Palmer City Manager Nathan Wallace said the building is on private property so the council has no say in who purchases the building or what it’s used for, as long as it falls under the general commercial use, which is what it’s zoned for right now.

The city code lists nearly 30 uses in the commercial general district, including an RV parking lot, bowling alley or pawnshop.

While it does not specifically allow shooting ranges, Wallace said that’s the way he interpreted the code.

“Myself, as zone administrator, made the determination if it fits the current zoning,” Wallace said. “Whether it’s the selling of guns or apparel or selling of whatever widgets, we don’t have anything that prevents the selling of any particular widget except marijuana."

Councilman Pete LaFrance disagreed, saying because a gun range is not one of the approved uses listed in the code, it should be prohibited.

He said the issue should have been brought to the Planning and Zoning Commission before the company applied for the noise permit.

“I am angry about this because I think this is our administration going in the wrong direction. It’s not about guns, it’s not about noise; it’s about process. This process is not correct,” he told the councilors.

Valkyrie Security needs the council to approve a noise permit because of a city code regarding the discharging of firearms within the city limits.

That’s what was up for debate at the council’s meeting Tuesday night.

The public comment period brought out people who supported the range and those who are adamantly opposed.

Some argued a gun range doesn’t fit the long-term vision of what some people want for the community.

“I think it’s a poor location for this, it should be in an industrial area,” said Meggie Aube.

Many others at the meeting shared her concern.

“I’m not afraid of guns-- I own guns. I don’t believe a gun range belongs across the street from my business,” said Dr. Jill Valerius, who owns Now Health. “I have a problem with guns in the parking lot and more guns in town."

Proponents of the range said the company had plans in place to make sure noise wasn’t an issue.

“I’ve been inside buildings that were gun ranges and couldn’t hear the guns firing. I don’t think noise is a problem,” said Cynthia McMillan. “I personally don’t think having an indoor gun range and mixed-use space in that empty building is going to keep me from going to get my cup of coffee.”

Wasilla resident Ryan McKee said the council shouldn’t be “picking winners and losers” when it comes to private businesses.

“This business has come with an appropriate plan and I don’t think they should have to sell you on all the money they’re going to bring. What they should be showing you is they will abide by the rules set forth for the noise permit,” McKee added.

Even though the council approved the noise permit, Valkyrie still has a long way to go before a range would actually come to fruition.

Wallace said U-Haul is also bidding for the building. If U-Haul ends up purchasing the property that would mean Valkyrie would have to apply for another noise permit if they wanted to put an indoor range somewhere else within city limits.

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