Opposition from Jackson Heights subdivision residents helped fuel a 4-1 vote
by the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals Wednesday to reject a request
by a resident wishing to run a business selling firearms at discount prices
to law enforcement officers and personal acquaintances from his home at 494
Dissenting against a motion to deny was BZA member Marvin Brickner.
The applicant, Kenneth Price, told the board he has operated a successful
camouflage wear company for the past eight years, which he started while
serving in the U.S. military where for a time he was an equipment and arms
expert. He saw an opportunity to do more business with his background and
sought a use variance to sell the weapons in a rural residential zoning
district. As with his camouflage wear business, most of the dealing will be
done on the internet.
Price told the board he would not be a “bona-fide weapons dealer” to
civilians since federal law restricts who you can sell a gun to. He also
said that he would not be selling ammunition and squashed neighbors’
speculations that he would open a firing range in his backyard.
“Let’s be realistic, that won’t happen,” he said. He also said he would not
be using any signs or storefront to mark his business.
Price presented the board a letter dated June 19 from Porter County Sheriff
David Lain and PCSP Chief Steve Lawrence who asserted that Price is an
“honorable and honest individual” and endorsed his endeavor.
Price said he does not yet have, but is applying for, a Federal Firearms
License (FFL) needed for selling guns and later mentioned that having
approval from the County is one of the requirements in obtaining it.
More than 30 neighbors and supporters signed in to speak for the public
hearing portion, part of a large crowd that packed the County Chambers on
Neighbors’ attorney speaks
First on the list to speak was Valparaiso attorney Brian Hurley, of Douglas,
Koeppen & Hurley, who was hired by neighbors in Jackson Heights to represent
Hurley said that in order to be permitted a use variance, Indiana law states
that a petitioner must show evidence that the use granted will not have a
negative effect on the health, safety and general welfare of the community,
that the use will not adversely affect the property values of neighboring
parcels, and that not granting the variance would result in hardship for the
“These things have to be found,” he said.
Hurley said he doubts there is a hardship since the business is located in
his home. He also questioned safety since firearms would be the product of
sale and there is a group home for developmentally disabled persons located
in the northern portion of Jackson Heights on a cul-de-sac.
He also said there is a concern from the neighbors of increased traffic,
given the fact that there is only one entrance/exit to the subdivision off
County Road 900 North.
Lastly, Hurley said that the covenant for Jackson Heights subdivision states
the developers’ intention that the community be used for residential
purposes only and this is the covenant that every resident has agreed to.
“There can be no business going on in a residential area,” he said.
No business here, please
Most Jackson Heights residents said they appreciated and admired Price for
his service in the military and many like Joan Sosbe were “not opposed to
guns” but were upset by the idea of a business operating in their
Sosbe said she was concerned over the growth and traffic a business would
bring posing a danger to children playing in the roads and the tranquility
of the neighborhood, which has been a selling point for residents that move
“We want to do everything we can to stay there. Safety is an issue,” she
Neighbor Michael Beverly said that if Price wanted to run a business then he
should consider other options instead of a rural residential neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Diane Silvonek said she received a letter that Price sent to
select neighbors letting them know he plans to hold gun safety
demonstrations once a month. She said she did not want the business to be in
a single-family residential neighborhood.
Neighbors Matt Keane, Brooke Sutter, Dean Vanderwoude, Brent Walker and Kim
Olson all dittoed comments opposing a business in the neighborhood and that
they want to preserve the peace and quiet they highly value.
“For me it’s just black and white. It’s a residential area,” said Sutter.
An associate with Price’s current business, Westchester Twp. resident John
Bridegroom assured the concerned neighbors in the audience that “safety is a
paramount concern of (Price’s)” and that the firearms would only be a “small
percentage” of the business.
“He will continue serving the community by servicing the law enforcement
that protects those communities,” Bridegroom said.
FFL licenses have strict regulations and background checks, Bridegroom
continued, that Price will honor and comply with.
“The danger is almost non-existent and the benefit is huge,” he said.
Jackson Twp. resident Dan Spears said he knows Price from having taught
Valparaiso High School as an “outstanding individual” and supported his
desire for starting a firearm business.
Another Jackson Twp. resident Wendy Smith who lives south of Price said she
has known him for 30 years as an “outstanding member of the community” and
knows that he is applying for a variance because he wants to do it right.
Also speaking were Price’s mother and step-father saying operating a small
business has been a lifelong goal of his. “He is doing it in the right way,”
Jackson Heights resident Walter Smith said that there has been a lot of
confusion from some of the neighbors that has created many rumors that are
not necessarily true and the neighbors should have gone to Priced directly
“I think a lot of people are misled in what Ken’s trying to do,” he said.
Echoing some of Smith’s comments, neighbor Daniel Konarski said he believes
the firearms issue “got a little carried away” and that not being able to
sell the weapons “will hurt his business.”
He said the group home is a business with employees and that “is in our
Price’s wife Rebecca Price said she knows of at least four other residents
in Jackson Heights who have for-profit businesses in their homes.
“We’re just trying to get our business (started) the right way,” she said.
Replying to remonstrators, Price said he grew up in Jackson Twp. and that is
why he bought his residence in Jackson Heights where he has lived since
He restated he would only be selling firearms to police and family and
friends which would not affect traffic.
He said he did send a letter letting neighbors letting them know about the
safety demonstrations because safety is important to him.
“What I am doing isn’t hurting anybody,” he said.
Price said he did want to grow his business and someday move it to an area
where it would fit the zoning requirements.
Board moves to deny
Siding with earlier comments by the attorney, BZA member Tim Cole said the
covenants “speak for themselves” and simply do not allow for businesses.
Member Rick Burns said this matter is “more than just a small business in a
home” and that he saw no hardship as required for the use variance.
Burns was also concerned that Price did not have a variance for his
camouflage wear business.
Brickner expressed support after conferring with Price about the strict
regulations of an FFL license and learning that federal agents could revoke
it at any time.
When the issue was put to a vote to deny, Brickner was the lone “no” vote.
Voting to deny were Cole, Burns, Michael Young and president Debbie