By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — A building considered by residents and city officials to be an eyesore was given new life after City Council gave the new owner permission Tuesday to use it as an indoor shooting range.
“This is a victory for the city of Allen Park because we are getting rid of a stagnant piece of property,” Councilman Bob Keenan said. “Yes, it could have been torn down and used to expand the (neighboring) bowling alley’s parking lot, but the idea of bringing more money into the city, through the additional tax revenue, and that the property will be usable by the residents are ultimately the desired outcomes.”
Shooting ranges are illegal to operate within the city because an ordinance prohibits the discharge of a firearm within city limits except in self-defense or in the defense of property, but the council could approve the operation and set specific guidelines.
The owner, Allan Ghamlouche, needed approval from the Planning Commission, Police Chief James Wilkewitz, and the council to operate the proposed business.
The Planning Commission gave Ghamlouche conditional approval to rehabilitate the building, 4100 Allen Road, Oct. 3, but Building Official David Boomer said there were some miscommunications between him and Wilkewitz, which delayed bringing it before the council. The council unanimously approved the proposed use for the building and welcomed the opportunity for a new business to operate within the city.
The building was condemned about two years ago and slated for demolition. The city was finalizing the process with the previous property owner, Boomer said, but the property was sold “during the 12th hour” to Ghamlouche.
Keenan said the city has a dangerous buildings commission to consider the necessary actions with vacant properties. That commission’s purpose is not to take property from people or just tear down buildings, he said, but to be a catalyst for development and keep buildings for becoming stagnant and a danger to the community.
“Even though some people would like to see this building torn down, this is exactly the outcome we would like to see within the community,” Keenan said, “that is to push something that has been stagnant for many years and get it to a point where it can be torn down or have someone step forward and remedy the building and the surrounding area.”
Ghamlouche said he will strip the 13,500-square-foot building down to the frame and rebuild it to accommodate a shooting range. He would like to keep the current building’s cement slab foundation and the brick walls and build out from there.
He said operating the shooting range would not be a nuisance to residents because the noise levels would be kept to a minimum with the planned renovations.
The range will also feature a small retail store near the front of the building to sell guns and ammunition. Ghamlouche said he plans for the business to be open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. once the renovations are complete.
“I look forward to opening a business that everyone can be proud of,” he said. “My plans are to update the parking lot and landscaping to keep the area presentable to the residents. In the worst case, the well-tailored storefront will get the business noticed and offer some free advertising.”
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])