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Zoning War Against Philadelphia Gun Range
Yuri has owned The Gun Range for a while since it took over the prior use from the old Colosimo's on Spring Garden. The store was on Spring Garden and the range was around the corner on Percy St.

This is across the street from the Philadelphia Gun Permit Unit office.

I had talked to him way before this news got out and he told me he did not want his zoning fight publicized for fear it would poison the appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

I am one of Philadelphia's premier zoning experts. I write about the subject often on Philadelinquency, my bog. Instead of re-opening Colosmio' old store on Spring Garden Street, the permit is to open accessory gun sales on the same premises as the commercial gun range as an accessory operation to an existing business.

All gun activities in the current Philadelphia Code all require a variance. Every gun range and store you see in Philadelphia right now, from 8th and Ellsworth to Firing Line to Lock's are all either grandfathered uses, were legal under prior zoning districts, or have inherited lifetime variances which make them all legal.

When a use becomes abandoned, the City takes advantage of that and invalidates the variance.

However in this case there's existing commercial firearms activity (the sales of ammunition, accessories and firing of firearms). Adding the accessory gun store alongside seems like a no-brainer.

This is what's likely going to happen: a lot of intense emotional pressure is going to be applied by CeaseFirePA to the ZBA... i.e. if you vote YES then you are killing our children, etc. The ZBA is likely to vote no, the Councilman that represents the district The Gun Range is in is Council President Darrell Clarke and we all know here what he's gonna do.

The chances of this zoning case going to the courts is 99%.

To help Yuri out, I would strongly suggest that you come drive down here to Philly and come visit what he's done to the range yourself if you haven't been, and also to get a membership.

Silk City Diner is down the street which has really good eats after you're finished shooting.

The crowd that shoots here is really young... nearly all millennials and Gen X'ers who have moved into the city from out of state or the suburbs. They also teach SD and have come up with some inventive ways to keep the place going without having the benefit of a sales and gunsmith operation on site.

And yes, they also now allow .308 inside the range (he had to upgrade the backstop and install more noise improvements)

Address and phone:
(215) 236 9292


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For years, Philadelphia's antiviolence groups made weekly pilgrimages to Colosimo's gun shop on Spring Garden Street to protest its lax sales practices. The tiny store was notorious for providing more weapons to street criminals than any other shop in Philadelphia. More than 425 crimes were committed with a firearm bought at Colosimo's, including 10 homicides, during a seven-year stretch in the 2000s, according to Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

So when the U.S. Attorney's Office finally shut down the store in 2009 for selling guns to straw buyers, those groups hailed the event as a watershed in the struggle to make the city a safer place.

The same people, however, were back on the street again Sunday afternoon with their microphones and their signs and their testimony from survivors of gun violence. This time, they were protesting a proposal to open a new gun shop inside a shooting range that was once part of Colosimo's operation.

Yuri Zalzman, who acquired the Gun Range when Colosimo's closed, plans to ask the city's Zoning Board on Wednesday for permission to sell firearms in his building, a windowless garage at 542 N. Percy St. that faces the Reading Viaduct near Ninth Street. Colosimo's was located around the corner, at 933 Spring Garden.

As the thwack-thwack-thwack of bullets could be heard from inside the shooting range, one speaker after another expressed disbelief that the nuisance they thought they had eradicated six years ago might be brought back to life.

"When I heard it was going to reopen, I said, 'Don't tell me all my work was in vain,' " said Cherie Ryans, who lost her 18-year-old son, Terence Ryans, in 1990 when he was shot leaving a West Philadelphia movie theater.

The rally, organized by Heeding God's Call and CeaseFirePA, attracted more than 40 people, many of whom had lost loved ones to gun violence.

"A gun shop doesn't belong in a residential neighborhood," said Susan Murray, a lawyer who moved to the area in 2008. Putting Colosimo's out of business had an instant impact on the neighborhood, she said.

In the six years since the shop's founder, James Colosimo, agreed to surrender his dealer's license, the North Philadelphia neighborhood has changed profoundly. Dozens of new homes have sprouted up nearby, and hipster bars and Buddhist temples have opened in the area. A house located just steps from the gun range recently sold for $400,000.

The area has become particularly popular with members of Philadelphia's Chinese community, who have spread north from Chinatown in search of bigger homes.

John Chin, head of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., was surprised that Zalzman even wanted to stay in the area.

"I was expecting the gun range would eventually move out," Chin said.

"The last thing this neighborhood needs is a gun shop," agreed Lawrence Rust, a local developer who lives in the area. He has built two dozen homes on Green Street, and is planning to break ground on 10 more Monday.

Zalzman's request to reopen the gun shop also comes just as Philadelphia and the nation are deep in a conversation about the easy access to guns.

"Many people don't realize that Pennsylvania is a major supplier of illegal guns," said Bryan Miller, head of Heeding God's Call. He estimates that 80 percent of the guns used in crimes in the state were purchased in Pennsylvania. And because New York and New Jersey have much stricter gun laws, Pennsylvania has become a major conduit of illegal guns, which are purchased by straw buyers and distributed to criminals.

Even though Zalzman's chances of receiving a variance are slim, Miller said, he believes Wednesday's hearing is just the beginning of a legal battle to legitimize weapon sales at the gun range.

Zalzman, who did not return calls for comment, is attempting to exploit a gray area in Philadelphia's zoning code.

Technically, gun shops are allowed only in industrial areas. Zalzman's gun range is located in a commercial zone - in a building still owned by Colosimo, according to city records.

But since the code makes no distinction between "gun range" and "gun shop," Zalzman intends to argue that the city effectively approved a gun shop on Percy Street when it legalized the gun range in 1985.

"Under the current interpretation of the zoning code," said Zalzman's lawyer, Dawn Tancredi, "I believe they have a permitted use."

At the same time, the code says that a gun shop may not be located within 500 feet of a residence or church. There is a Buddhist temple across the street from the gun range, and St. Paul's Baptist Church is also nearby.

"We're not against people having legal guns," said St. Paul's pastor, the Rev. Leslie Callahan. "I grew up in West Virginia and my father hunted. But if they don't follow the zoning rules, why would they follow the gun rules?"

I've written up a deeper analysis of what is going on, here:
I wonder how they'd feel if someone stood in front of them with a sign that says "Blacks kill people".
streaker69;168336 Wrote:I wonder how they'd feel if someone stood in front of them with a sign that says "Blacks kill people".

That's totally incorrect and insensitive. What's next, Muslims caused 9/11?

Big Grin
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Is that the Yuri who was or is an RSO at Wicen's?
gascolator, proud to be a member of since Nov 2012.
I've had a run in with Miller, in Maryland, as he tried to hijack the Christian movement into shutting down a gun store. At first, he tried the "Christian" approach, but later his liberal vitriol surfaced as the name calling started foaming out of his mouth. The Christian reference of "Heeding God's Call", in my opinion, is an affront.
SAF Life Member
DeadEye, proud to be a member of since Jun 2013.
Luckily this is a zoning matter and gun control rhetoric has nothing to do with zoning at all. They'll have to be far more crafty. Incompatible uses, uses incongruent with planning schemes, the environment, dimension controls. Parking is already out the window as a zoning argument because there's more than enough ample parking there even after all those new residents moved in.

You also will have a very hard time zero-ing out a use completely using the zoning code. Pittsburgh tried this with methadone clinics and they were beaten down with ADA. And in general, banning classes of businesses across the entire political subdivision has never been something the Penna Supreme Court has been fond of (all the cases that dealt with adult video centers).

The current zoning code in Philly makes all gun shops by-exception even if the property is commercial and it sits on a commercial corridor (which this one does). You could force the City Solicitor to answer the question: "OK, so if you said a gun shop is not acceptable inside/adjacent to a pre-existing firing range, in a commercial building, along a commercial corridor of Spring Garden Street, could you point to some places on the zoning map in the city where you think gun stores could go?"

Your typical anti will retort "nowhere!" And there you have made your argument for hardship. I don't think you'll have CeaseFirePA or your typical anti protestor scouring over the City's zoning maps and pre-determining where they would like to see a gun shop located.

And the 8th and Ellsworth gun range destroys nearly all the arguments over buffer zones and encroachment. It has a legalized grandfathered use that the City cannot take away, it's on a mixed commercial-residential block with food stands around the corner, high amounts of pedestrian traffic, two tourists hotspots nearby, and I'm sure there's a church or a school somewhere close by (one of the city's buffer zones it set up). But the biggest thing is that there's residential homes buttressing the party walls. When you're in 8th and Ellsworth shooting in lanes 1 or 13 there's a living room/bedroom just on the other side of a double masonry wall.

It's probably one of the most unusual gun ranges in America. It came about this way pre-gun-control when people just didn't get all worked up over this shit like they do now, the Italian Market did its own thing and City Hall was so filled with corruption that you could just buy your way into being in zoning compliance by handing over cash in an envelope, etc.

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