A Clayton Heights man who hoped to open an indoor shooting range in the former A&B Sound building on the Langley Bypass has had his plan shot down by the City of Langley — twice.
The reason for denying Dustin Sikora a business licence, City officials said, is that the building in question is zoned for recreational use, and a shooting range does not fit the criteria.
The City’s argument is that recreation is defined in its bylaws as an opportunity to perform a physical activity, such as swimming, skating, bowling, golf and the like.
Sikora, who consulted a lawyer after being denied a licence by staff, appeared before council on Monday night, in an effort to have them reverse the decision, which they have the authority to do.
He pointed out that while billiards is specifically excluded as a recreational activity under the bylaw, shooting is not mentioned and therefore cannot be banned.
And, as an official event at the Summer Olympic Games, shooting is, by definition, a sport, he said.
However the City, which consulted its own legal counsel prior to Monday’s meeting, contends that the absence of indoor shooting from the list of approved activities means that it is, in fact, prohibited.
Sikora was given the option of applying to have the building rezoned — a process that could take a few months and would require a public hearing — but Sikora called it a “stall tactic” that would cost him time and an additional $4,000 to $5,000.
“It’s an inappropriate process for what the argument is,” he said.
Langley City CAO Francis Cheung acknowledged that even if Sikora decided to apply for a rezoning, there is no guarantee he would be successful.
Instead, Sikora opted to plead his case before council. Joined by more than a dozen supporters — many of them military and law enforcement members — Sikora spoke for several minutes on Monday night.
But following his presentation, council members voted unanimously to uphold staff’s decision, without asking Sikora any questions or discussing the matter at all.
As Sikora was leaving the room, acting Mayor Ted Schaffer addressed him.
“Mr. Sikora, you will be in contact with staff, no doubt. . . . Good luck in your endeavours in business,” Schaffer said.
“Last night was a real downer,” said Sikora, speaking over the phone on Tuesday.
Sikora said he was more disappointed with the process than with the result, calling the City’s licensing practise “arbitrary.”
“There was no discussion, no questions . . . It was pre-ordained.
They had decided in camera (how they would vote),” he said.
Sikora said his facility would serve two purposes. The first would be to offer a location where law enforcement officers, who have to re-qualify regularly to carry their firearms, could shoot indoors at a standard distance of 25 metres. The second would be to provide the general public with a place to shoot indoors.
Sikora said he was aware there is a daycare centre located next to the building, but doesn’t believe the two businesses would have been in conflict with one another as people using the facility would be trained to handle firearms safely.
He said he was also prepared to adhere to any noise bylaws.
Sikora will now pursue plans to open his business, which he plans to call “The Range — Langley” within the Township.
“The plan now is to go back to the Township that has been extremely co-operative and exercise the business license that they’ve already processed,” said Sikora.
“I guess the City of Langley is not ‘the place to be.’ The Township is. We should be open for business in a true municipal democracy this January.”
Despite his plan to locate his business in the Township, Sikora hasn’t ruled out taking the City to court.