Pressures grow against gun store, shooting range

Lawsuit is latest salvo against relocation of Triple J Armory

Posted 8/20/18

A lawsuit from the SouthPark Owners Association is the latest salvo in a series of mounting pressures against Triple J Armory's plans to build a gun store and shooting range in the SouthPark …

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Pressures grow against gun store, shooting range

Lawsuit is latest salvo against relocation of Triple J Armory

Posted

A lawsuit from the SouthPark Owners Association is the latest salvo in a series of mounting pressures against Triple J Armory's plans to build a gun store and shooting range in the SouthPark neighborhood near McLellan Reservoir.

Triple J, which currently operates a gun store in a strip mall at 311 E. County Line Road, just east of Broadway, is working to move into a building at 8152 Southpark Lane, where they have begun construction on an indoor shooting range in a building that previously housed a light manufacturing operation.

Neighbors have raised objections, saying the store — which was targeted three times in the course of a year by smash-and-grab burglars who twice made off with numerous guns from their current location — is a bad fit for a neighborhood that's home to daycare centers and schools.

The company also ran afoul of the City of Littleton, which issued a cease-and-desist letter in June after finding that Triple J was building its indoor shooting range without a permit.

Now, the company faces a lawsuit from the SouthPark Owners Association, or SPOA — which oversees business activity in the office park — alleging that Triple J never sought required approval for modifications to the building, and that the company ignored an earlier cease-and-desist letter from SPOA.

Triple J's owners, however, say neighbors' concerns are unwarranted, the city's permitting process is too slow, and that they were operating under a belief that they had already obtained SPOA's blessing to build.

“We feel our civil rights have been violated,” said JD Murphree, one of Triple J's co-owners. “We are being discriminated against. People aren't respecting our right to free business. They're not respecting our right to the Second Amendment.”

New neighbors

Guns aren't the problem, said Farima Nemat, who owns Primrose School, a private preschool around the corner from Triple J's new location.

“This business has been the target of violent criminals three times,” Nemat said. “Is our perimeter safe? What if the robbers jumped our fence to get away? I can't fortify my school, but hopefully as a community we can avoid bringing this sort of business that attracts dangerous criminals.”

Triple J's approach thus far is unnerving to Rebecca Askew, the president of the Highline Crossing homeowners association, representing a cohousing community a stone's throw from the new location.

“We heard about their past, with the break-ins, then we found out they weren't pulling permits,” Askew said. “That was enough to make us concerned about the process and whether our community is safe. What precautions will they take, and how transparent do they plan to be?”

Askew said she and others are also concerned about what safety measures will be taken to ensure live fire won't leave the shooting range.

The range will adhere to standards recommended by the National Rifle Association, JD said, with 16-inch thick concrete walls.

Nemat and Askew are among many community members who have reached out to city officials with concerns, said city councilmember Carol Fey, who represents the district.

She said the store's past, with three attempted or completed burglaries, seems beyond the pale.

“Once would be enough to make neighbors uneasy, but more than once seems out of control,” Fey said.

Not all neighbors are upset.

“I would greatly appreciate a close location to practice my shooting skills,” area resident Tom Bonnot said by email. “The only reason to not allow this to occur is due to an unreasonable hatred of guns.”

Safety measures

The new store will employ a wide range of high-tech security measures to thwart burglars, said JD Murphree and his father, Triple J co-owner Dennis Murphree.

Though the Murphrees asked that many of their security devices and countermeasures not go in print, they said the nature of the new building would reduce its desirability as a target for burglars, with its elevated entrance and large planters out front that could prevent a repeat occurrence of vehicles being used to bash in the front entrance.

“Are we a target? Sure, but so are a lot of places,” Dennis said. “So is PDA Road Gear.”

PDA Road Gear is an auto accessory store near the new location, owned by SPOA director Pat Dunahay.

JD said they “learned their lesson” after the previous three incidents, and that the landlord at their current location was resistant to installing security devices. Thieves drove a Jeep over concrete posts installed in front of the store in the most recent burglary, in May 2017.

Nobody has been arrested in connection with the Triple J burglaries, JD said, though he said some of the stolen guns have been recovered from other crime scenes.

Singling out Triple J for its burglaries is unfair, JD said, because the crimes were part of a wave of such thefts in 2016 and 2017.

City action

The city couldn't deny the Murphrees the right to open a shooting range and gun store in the building even if it wanted to, said City Manager Mark Relph.

The site's zoning allows retail and “indoor recreation,” Relph said, which includes shooting ranges.

The city issued a cease-and-desist order to stop construction on the gun range in June, according to documents obtained from the city, and hired a third-party consultant at Triple J's expense to mandate safety measures before work could continue.

JD said they regret building without a permit, but had grown frustrated with the slow pace of Littleton's permit approval process.

“We made a calculated risk,” JD said. “We got caught, we paid the fee, we got our hands slapped, and we've agreed with the city to move forward amicably.”

They plan to comply with all of the consultant's recommendations, JD said, most of which have to do with materials and construction methods.

The area's zoning is outdated, said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

“When this property was zoned more than 20 years ago, there were no schools in the area,” Brinkman said. “At this point we don't have a way to stop (Triple J). It's private property rights. What we can, must and will do is ensure it's done to the highest level of safety as possible. If we were to deny his property rights, he would sue us for that. And win.”

Lawsuit filed

The city's requirements notwithstanding, Triple J still has not submitted required architectural modification plans for the shooting range to the SouthPark Owners Association, said Max Minnig, a lawyer representing SPOA, prompting the association to file a lawsuit to halt construction.

JD asserts Triple J has been above board with SPOA.

“We have done everything they asked us to do,” JD said. “We received an email last October, and have had phone calls since, saying we were good to go.”

“We have a significant difference of opinion on that issue,” Minnig said.

The Murphrees were invited to speak at the SPOA board meeting held July 31, but didn't attend, Minnig said.

A hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 5.

In the meantime, Triple J is eager to ingratiate itself to the community, JD said.

“Call us,” JD said. “We'll sit down for coffee. We'll talk about the precautions we're taking. Nobody should have to feel unsafe because we're here. We're just a family trying to make our own way.”

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