The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

A city resident who seeks to sell firearms from his home was at Van Wert City Council on Monday to appeal a decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals to turn down a variance for his South Walnut Street residence.

City resident Stephen Letson addresses Van Wert City Council concerning his seeking of a variance for a gun sale home business. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Stephen Letson, who is a licensed gun dealer through the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), had sought a “conditional use” variance that would have allowed him to use his home as a business, and to place a small sign outside the residence.

The city man said selling guns is an extension of his lifelong interest in hunting and shooting sports. Letson, who works full-time at Eaton Corporation, said the home business would provide supplemental income to his Eaton job, noting that both of his young daughters will apparently need braces down the road, among other things.

Letson said his business plan for selling guns from his home included the idea of decreasing overhead so that he could sell firearms for less money, but still make a reasonable profit. He added that he was not interested in owning a storefront business because it did not fit his business plan.

One benefit to local residents for granting his appeal, Letson noted, was that currently, as a private licensed gun dealer, he is not required to do background checks on those who purchase guns from him. That would change if he incorporates, as he plans to do. As an incorporated business, Letson said he would then be required to do background checks on those who purchase guns from him.

Residents who live around Letson objected to a home business being established in the area, and had brought a petition with 26 names on it to the Zoning Appeals Board hearing, as well as spoke out against it at the hearing.

Council’s Judiciary & Annexation Committee has scheduled a hearing for 6 p.m. Monday, October 23, to consider the appeal.

Also Monday, City Council voted to join a coalition that plans a lawsuit against the Ohio General Assembly over legislation, specifically House Bill 49 and House Bill 5, that authorizes centralized tax collections by state government. Council also asked for preparation of a supplemental appropriations measure that would appropriate $4,000 as the city’s share of legal expenses for the initiative.

A large number of municipalities around the state have opposed centralized tax collections, stating that such collections would result in additional costs to municipalities, as well as the loss of control over those funds. Many municipal officials also say the legislation is unconstitutional, since they feel it violates municipalities’ “home rule” rights.

Council also scheduled a Finance Committee meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, November 27, to discuss ramifications of the pending state legislation.

Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming also noted during his report that blacktop would likely be laid down later this week on the Fox Road/Industrial Drive intersection project, as well as the Woodland Avenue street project.

City Auditor Martha Balyeat had some mostly good financial news for City Council. Balyeat told Council members that city tax receipts were up approximately $150,000 over last year, with most of that coming from the city income tax, while revenues were approximately $226,000 higher than this time last year.

“We’re holding our own,” Balyeat added.

The city auditor did note that some of the revenue increases were one-time gains, not reoccurring revenue, although she also noted that a tax increase was needed down the road. On that note, the auditor said early voting on the 0.28-percent income tax issue would start this Wednesday, October 11.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of Van Wert City Council will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, October 23, in Council Chambers, on the second floor of the Municipal Building, 515 E. Main St.

POSTED: 10/10/17 at 7:35 am. FILED UNDER: News