US Land Use Infographic

As they used to say on Monty Python, “And now for something totally different.”

If you have followed this blog over the years, you know I love a good infographic. Presenting data graphically makes it more accessible and more readily understandable.

I came across this infographic on land use in the United States. It divides a map of the US up into sections based upon land use. Pasturage for cows is the number one land use in America. Obviously, we like our beef and we like our dairy products.

I’m not sure where I found it but it seems to have originated with an article on Bloomberg from 2018.

Sunnyvale Planning Commission Wants To Impose Unconstitutional Restrictions Due To NIMBYs

Attorney Chuck Michel who works with the NRA/CRPA Legal Action Project in California posted an article this evening about the Sunnyvale, California Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is seeking to have the Sunnyvale City Council adopt a new municipal ordinance which would put increased restrictions on the sale of firearms in Sunnyvale. The Commission is responding to unfounded complaints from some neighbors of a firearms dealer that opened in Sunnyvale in 2010. The complaints include that they weren’t notified and that children walk by the store on their way to school as if just merely seeing guns will turn their kids into the next Klebold and Harris (of Columbine infamy).


On August 22, 2011, the Planning Commission for the City of Sunnyvale held a meeting to consider the City’s ongoing “Firearms Sales Study Issue.” The issue originated when a firearms dealer, U.S. Firearms, opened for business in Sunnyvale in the fall of 2010. Despite the fact that the dealer had all necessary permits and licenses from both the state and federal government, neighbors made complaints to Sunnyvale staff and elected officials.

The Sunnyvale Planning Commission ultimately decided to sponsor the issue as a result of the complaints, but the City Council ranked it number 4 of 4 for 2011. Even though this issue had the lowest ranking by the City Council for 2011, and the fact that the Staff Report on the issue (AVAILABLE HERE) indicates that “there has been no evidence of increased crime, property devaluation or land use incompatibilities as the result of the businesses,” and Sunnyvale “staff ha[d] not identified any adverse land use impacts associated with a firearms store,” the Planning Commission nonetheless recommended that the City Council adopt an ordinance to amend the City’s municipal code to place restrictions on firearm sales in Sunnyvale. Though the staff report acknowledged there had been no problems with firearm sellers, staff nonetheless inexplicably noted in the report that, “[t]he greatest concern regarding firearm sales is the business operator that is engaged in buying and selling the firearms.”

The approved ordinance would: 1) add a definition for “firearms sales business;” 2) prohibit these businesses in commercial and industrially-zoned districts within 200 feet of public schools in order to provide a buffer to the schools; and 3) require a new DPS Firearms Dealer Permit that would include additional conditions such as requiring a security plan to be installed and then inspected by the City, and that the Federal Firearm License (FFL) holder and all employees meet the state and federal requirements regarding past criminal convictions, etc. (current requirements are limited to the dealer and not the employees).

Michel & Associates attorneys submitted an opposition letter to the Planning Commission on behalf of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) noting that firearm dealers are subject to a variety of background checks at both the state and federal levels. The letter (AVAILABLE HERE) also noted that firearm dealers are generally some of the most upstanding members of society, and that after the Supreme Court’s McDonald decision, they enjoy a protected status as purveyors of a fundamental right. So the fact that some “residents [of Sunnyvale] have expressed [unfounded] concerns about the potential crime and public safety risk associated with a firearm sales business located near their homes and schools” does not mean that the City of Sunnyvale is free to infringe on fundamental Second Amendment rights.

The letter explains that since the Second Amendment is a newly court-recognized right, the contours of the Second Amendment’s protections are still being litigated in courtrooms across the country. The letter also amicably explains the current legal landscape regarding firearm regulation, and suggests Sunnyvale should avoid litigation on these issues by consulting with the NRA, CRPA, and their attorneys.

As the city continues moving forward with the proposed ordinance, additional correspondence will be submitted.

I have examined the 141 page staff report submitted to the  Sunnyvale Planning Commission. Much of the document was devoted to reporting on the comments at a public meeting on the issue. Approximately 120 people attended the June 2011 meeting and it appears that the overwhelming majority were against any new regulations and were indeed pro-rights. Many of the letters received also support the existing gun store, U.S. Firearms, and gun stores in general.

However, the Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV) has weighed in on the issue with a 59 page submission urging the Planning Commission to adopt new regulations. Unfortunately, this submission and not the majority of the residents of Sunnyvale seems to have carried the day. You must wonder if LCAV will also foot the legal bills for Sunnyvale when they get the pants sued off of them on Second Amendment grounds. I somehow doubt it.

Glock Factory Expansion in Georgia Update

Last week, I put up a very long post entitled “Glock, Nimbys, and Land Use Planning.” In the post, I examined Glock’s  request for variancs to the City of Smyrna’s stream buffer ordinance. It is worth going back and reading to understand the roadblocks that opponents to a manufacturing plant’s expansion – especially those in the firearms industry – will seek to employ.

Since that post, I have had a chance to read the draft minutes from the August 2nd Smyrna City Council meeting as well as the staff reports from the City’s community development department. In addition, I stumbled across a website set up by the opponents to this expansion called

Staff Reports
First, let us examine the staff reports which can be found here and here. The reports detail the request by Glock, they analyze what standards apply to the stream in question, and then look at whether the Glock request meets the criteria required for granting of a variance. The reports also show pictures of the outskirts of the area in question. As I said in my earlier post, the water drainage impacted by Glock’s site prep and construction flows downhill away from the homeowners who are protesting.

In both variance requests, the City staff said:

Community Development has reviewed the request against the variance review standards and found it to be in compliance with three (4) of the four (4) standards.

The City staff recommended the approval of both variances with conditions. The conditions included a 1:1 ratio of mitigation for the encroachment into the buffer zones. This mitigation could be either on-site or elsewhere. No land grading or site prep could proceed until a separate mitigation plan was presented and approved. On Variance 10-019 which encroached upon what are called “state waters”, Glock would also be required to get the requisite state approvals before proceeding.

Opposition Website

Neighborhood opponents set up a  website, , to help marshall the opposition to Glock’s expansinon and the needed variances. They said the purpose of the website was:

This website is intended to provide up to the minute information on the ongoing battle between residents, Glock, and Smyrna City Hall over whether Glock should be permitted to expand their manufacturing facilities to within 50 feet of a residential subdivision.

Residential subdivisions and manufacturing plants just don’t fit together for a lot of reasons, including safety, security, aesthetics, property value, and quality of life. For some reason, the City of Smyrna decided to zone heavily wooded and steep land off a residential road as “light industrial” instead of residential. Instead of recognizing the utter ridiculousness of this zoning, the City instead is proceeding to allow Glock to develop the land into a massive manufacturing compound under the theory of “well, it’s zoned light industrial and so they can do what they want with their property.”

Citizens throughout Smyrna need to recognize that our current City Council is more concerned with helping boost industrial development than in protecting the quality of life of the residents. It is untenable that the City could permit this type of zoning without considering the impact on its residents.

NOTE: This is NOT an anti-gun site. The majority of residents involved in this issue have no problems with guns, the 2nd Amendment, or gun manufacturing. The problem is with the location of the gun manufacturing facility so very close to residential neighborhoods of young families.

It should be noted here that the Glock factory opened in 1987. Most of the houses in the adjoining neighborhoods were not built until 2001 or later during the height of the building boom in suburban Atlanta. The land where the Glock factory sits and where it wants to expand have always been zoned Light Industrial.

The opponents state that they have environmental concerns about the grading and tree cutting. They also note that “Variances take away our community’s basic protections for the benefit of a single landowner.” They then make the suggestion that Glock use other vacant buildings or vacant shopping centers for their expansion. Of course, this latter suggestion ignores the utility of having manufacturing in one location as well as the security concerns given it is a firearms manufacturer.
City Council Meeting

On August 2nd, the Smyrna City Council heard both variance requests and approved both of them by a 7-0 vote. With few exceptions, the testimony of the area residents was against the variances for Glock while the testimony of staff and a representative from the Chamber of Commerce were in favor of them. As these are only draft minutes, I won’t quote any one individual. However, the residents generally opposed it because a) it would cause flooding; b) trees would be cut down; c) there would be construction traffic and construction workers; and d) it would lower the value of their property.

In testimony by the City Engineer, he noted that Glock was providing a 5 acre permanently dedicated greenspace as a 2:1 mitigation for the encroachment upon the stream buffers. He also noted in response to a question from a member of the council that if Glock wasn’t given the variances, Glock could reconfigure their plans so as not to need a variance and that would cause greater problems downstream.

The council approved the variance requests with the following stipulations:

  •  A 1:1 mitigation for encroachment
  • Glock would provide a flagman or crossing guard in front of the Wetherbrooke Subdivision for one hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon when school children would be moving about.
  • A Landscape Oversight Committee composed of a Glock representative and a representative from the HOA would review all landscape plans. A representative from the Community Development Department would be an ex-officio member and could vote in cases of ties.
  • Any proposed or future Glock buildings visible from the Wetherbrooke Subdivision must have a brick facade.
  • Glock must use low-intensity lighting that would prevent illumination of the Wetherbrooke Subdivision.
  • The condition of the construction access road, Camp Highland Rd, should be assessed in advance and a maintenance plan approved by the City Engineer to correct any damages caused by construction traffic.
  • The gate at the end of Camp Highland Road should only be accessible by Smyrna emergency vehicles outside of times of construction.
  • Approval must be received for any disturbance of any “State Waters” and presented to the City Engineer prior to beginning grading in those areas.

In my opinion, Glock got their needed variances because they were willing to accept the stipulations and because they were willing to compromise on their project to meet the city’s concerns. Moreover, it was obvious to at least the Mayor that the HOA was trying to “shake down” Glock for a park and a $150,000 non-refundable damage “contribution”.

Glock, Nimbys, and Land Use Planning

Glock’s plans to expand in Smyrna, GA has made news in the metro Atlanta area. This in turn has been picked up by gun bloggers for example here and here.

Rather than just repeat what has been said, I’d like to examine their expansion and the opposition to it from a land use planning standpoint. I have served on my town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for over 16 years. Boards of Adjustment in North Carolina are quasi-judicial in nature. We hear requests for variances and conditional use permits. We hold public meetings where we take sworn testimony from town staff, those requesting the variance or permit, and those opposed to it. After we render a decision, the applicant can take our decision or appeal it to Superior Court. Most variance requests are reasonable and usually approved.

The process in the City of Smyrna is very similar. The major differences seem to be that they call the Board of Adjustment a “license and variance board” and that they pass the more controversial variances up to the City Council. If an opponent makes a “Notice of Preservation of Constitutional Rights”, the request must be heard by the City Council and not the License and Variance Board (LVB).

Variance Request

Currently, Glock has two buildings where they assemble, test, and ship their pistols. Including an in-progress 17,975 square foot expansion, they have approximately 100,000 square feet of building space. This original plant was built in 1987 and is located in the Highlands Industrial Park. Both these buildings and the expansion are in an area zoned Light Industrial.

This zoning classification allows among other things:

Within any LI industrial district, the following uses shall be permitted:

(714.1) Any industrial use which involves manufacturing, processing, or assembly operations or the storage and sale of heavy materials, products or equipment; but not including those uses which emit obnoxious, injurious or offensive noise, vibrations, smoke, dust, gas fumes or odors or create fire or explosion hazards or other objectionable conditions.

(714.21) Within planned industrial parks, archery and gun ranges (indoor), provided they meet all federal regulations and the National Rifle Association standards governing such activities, as approved by the city building inspector and fire marshal.

Their expansion plans include adding another four buildings totaling 263,277 square feet of space. This will be about 2.6 times more than they have already. They plan to build this on an 18 acre tract of land adjoining their current plant. This area is mostly forested and has a small stream running down it.

The property owner, Consultinvest, Inc., made 3 requests for variances to the City of Smyrna License and Variance Board. While the property will be used by Glock, the actual property owner is the one who must make the request. The variances were required because of encroachments on a) the stream buffer with “no State Waters; b) a stream buffer with State Waters; and c) the 50 ft residential buffer. The last variance request was withdrawn at the June 9th LVB meeting.

The City of Smyrna applies the following standards to variance requests:

Sec. 1403. Variance review standards.
In rendering its decisions, the license and variance board or mayor and city council shall consider the following factors:
(1) Whether there are unique and special circumstances or extraordinary and exceptional conditions applying to the property in question, or to the intended use of the property, that do not apply generally to other properties in the same district.
(2) Whether any alleged hardship is self-created by any person having an interest in the property nor is the result of mere disregard for or ignorance of the provisions from which relief is sought.
(3) Whether strict application of the relevant provisions of the Zoning Code would deprive the applicant of reasonable use of the property for which the variance is sought.
(4) Whether the variance proposed is the minimum variance, which makes possible the reasonable use of the property.
(Ord. No. 2005-34, 8-1-05)

Translated into basic English, this means that if because of the topography or other physical features of your land you cannot make reasonable use of your property when following the absolute letter of the zoning law, you can ask for a variance. The variance can only be just enough to let you use the land reasonably.

Smyrna adopted a stream buffer ordinance in 2005. It requires a 50 foot vegetative buffer from the banks of any stream that drains less than 5 square miles. It also requires an additional 25 foot buffer from there in which you can’t put have pavement or other impervious surfaces. The stream buffer ordinance does allow variances for properties such as this which were platted prior to 2005.

Consultinvest, Inc. and Glock worked with the Smyrna planning staff to come up with plans that would fly. The first site plan seen here was revised to include the building placement. The revised plan can be seen here.

It is obvious to me that they re-sited New Building B so as not to encroach on the 50 foot residential buffer. New Buildings D and E are fairly non-controversial as they adjoin other industrial buildings. Only New Building C which is sited in the triangle formed by Prince and Camp Highlands Roads appears to be the sticking point.

If you look at the Red teardrop on this topo map, the proposed expansion takes place in the flat area in front of it and up into the little valley formed by Prince and Camp Highland Roads. The key thing to me is that the drainage from this land goes AWAY from the residential areas.

Above you can see a satellite view of the area in question. If you were to put your left index finger horizontally across the satellite view starting at the smaller of the existing Glock buildings, you would cover the area for New Buildings B, D, and E.

Hearings and Opposition

The first hearing of the LVB was on June 9th. At that meeting, the Board accepted the withdrawal of the request by Consultinvest, Inc. to encroach upon the 50 foot residential buffer (V10-020). The other two variance requests were tabled until the LVB’s June 23rd meeting.

It is evident that the surrounding subdivisions began to mobilize in the interim. I should note that it is always standard procedure to inform neighbors within a 500 foot radius of the proposed variance of the hearings. Doing a Google search on opposition to the Glock expansion, I found a series of messages starting around June 19th trying to rally the opposition to the plans.

The Wetherbrooke Homeowners Association and other individuals in the subdivision hired an attorney to make their opposition known and to negotiate on their behalf. In the exhibits for the June 23rd meeting there is a letter from the law firm of Lazega & Johanson which makes the notice of “Preservation of Constitutional Rights.” The Wetherbrooke subdivision is just to the Northwest of the planned expansion on the satellite picture.

Prior to the June 23rd meeting, there was a meeting between the homeowners association, Smyrna city planners, and Glock to see if they could iron out the differences with regard to Glock’s expansion. It appears that the HOA had some demands that needed to be met or they would object. They were not totally met.

Glock’s attorney, Garvis Sams, Jr. of Sams, Larkin & Huff, outlined what Glock and Consultinvest, Inc. would do in a letter to the HOA’s attorneys. First, Glock agreed to limit construction traffic and to provide a flagman during the mornings and afternoons when school children are going to or arriving home from school. They did not agree to provide the home owner’s with their security plans due to the constraints imposed by being a DOD contractor.

Glock said it would paint the exterior walls of the new buildings in the same color scheme as the existing building and that they would make sure security lighting was not aimed towards the subdivision. Here is where it gets interesting. It seems that the HOA wanted a park or playground built for the residents of the Wetherbrooke Subdivision and that they were demanding a $150,000 payment be made to the HOA’s “reserve fund” in case of any damages. While saying that they would pay for any inadvertent damages caused in construction, Glock told the HOA that they would not build a playground nor put $150,000 in the reserve fund. Finally, Glock said it was keeping its ammo storage at the old buildings and that their new (indoor) shooting range would be in one of the existing buildings – not the new construction.

The LVB held their June 23rd meeting and passed both variance requests to the Smyrna City Council due to the state opposition.

City Council

The variance requests were on the agenda for the City Council for both July 6th and July 19th. However, the Council tabled it at both meetings and the hearing (and vote) on the variances was held on August 2nd.

Unfortunately, the minutes from the August 2nd meeting have not been published yet. I was informed by the City Clerk today that they were in draft form and they were still being worked on. As a result, what I know about the council meeting comes from the Marietta Daily Journal.

The opposition seems to have been vocal – if not well informed. Reports had more than a hundred people attending the meeting holding signs saying “Save our Neighborhood”. The following comments by a Kimberly Childs seems typical:

“You just heard tonight one of the Glock representatives saying they were planning to move some of their manufacturing here. I’m not at all opposed to gun rights or anything like that, but maybe if they were making vacuum cleaners it’d be another thing; they’re making handguns right by our properties and our children,” said Childs, a mother of two children ages 6 and 4, said.

Mrs. Childs was later quoted as saying:

“That’s our mayor and city council up there, degrading us,” Childs said. “I was surprised the vote was unanimous, and they obviously had more faith in their pro- GLOCK city staffers than they did in their own residents who’ve devoted so much time to proving our concerns.

But GLOCK has a long way to go before these buildings can be built, and we’re looking at our options to appeal this to the Supreme Court, so this issue certainly isn’t over.”

However, there were some pro-Glock expansion comments. Cobb County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rob Garcia noted that Glock had been a model corporate citizen for 24 years and would be bring up to 100 new jobs to the area over the next few years. He urged Council to approve the variance.

It seems some of the anger was not so much with Glock as with City Council. One lady noted that Glock had provided much more information than Council. She said they would have still opposed it but wouldn’t have been so mad about it.

The City Council voted 7-0 to approve the variance requests. However, it appears that the residents of Wetherbrooke subdivision and their HOA will probably try to hold it up.

Final Comments

If I had been on either the LVB or the Council I would have voted to approve the variances. I say this not because  I am a gun blogger but because it would have been the right thing to do. Glock and Consultinvest, Inc. met the standard for granting a variance due to the topography of their land. The use of the land was consistent with the Light Industrial standards including the firing range. Furthermore, Glock appeared willing to work with City staff to make sure their expansion was done correctly and with minimal disruption to its neighbors. As the letter from their attorney in June attests, they were open to changes and willing to work with the homeowners. However, Glock was not willing to be bullied or blackmailed.

Checking the tax listings for both Glock and those named as testifying against the expansion was interesting. Glock had been in their location since 1987. The oldest house built in the adjoining subdivisions was built in 2001. If you buy or build a house next to an industrial area, you should have done your homework. If you didn’t like what was there, don’t buy next to it and expect the industrial companies to change.

The hyperbole from the opposition was all too typical. They didn’t pay attention early on in the process when they could have made constructive suggestions and then got all hyped up towards the end. They based much of their testimony on myth and legend. I found the comments by Kimberly Childs of going to the Supreme Court especially amusing since she is a lawyer in Atlanta  and is considered an up-and-coming litigator in Georgia.

I will post an update when I get a chance to read the minutes from the City Council meeting. I’m sure there will be some gems in there!