Epson firearms dealer gets the okay, again


Monitor staff

Published: 10-24-2023 4:23 PM

A firearms business in Epsom remains cleared to open after the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment declined to rehear concerns that the operation was not allowed in a residential area.

Robert Topik had asked the board to reconsider its decision that upheld a previous decision by the Epsom Planning Board to allow Steven and Patricia Rhodes to run a firearms business out of their house on Lena Lane.

The zoning board chose not to review its August 30 decision by a 4-1 vote. At issue was how the official definition of a home occupation business in a residential/agricultural zone was viewed.

The policy states that the use of a dwelling by the resident for a home occupation is allowed for such operations as “dressmaking, hairdressing, home day care, teaching, or the offices for real estate, insurance, engineer, doctor (other than veterinarian), dentist, architect, lawyer, or other recognized profession similar in scope and impact.”

The board decided it was not presented with enough new evidence to reopen the matter and let its earlier decision stand.

The Rhodes’ said their sales, including those made at gun shows, would go through their website. Certain stipulations were imposed, such as specific times and days when deliveries and customer pickups could occur.

Gary Kitson was the lone member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment to side with Topik and voted to allow the rehearing. He said in an administrative appeal, the board must follow the ordinance literally.

“It did not meet the criteria for a home occupation,” Kitson said. “The home occupation (definition) does not say firearms.”

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Topik and longtime local real estate broker Mike Keeler have led the effort to keep the business out of their neighborhood and have it open in a commercial zone, where they say it belongs.

“The (ZBA) tended to not want to examine the merits of their decision,” Topik said.

Added Keeler, “It’s not the same zone as where a daycare center is located. Parents who drop off their kids would want to know if a gun dealer is next door.”

Keeler said he fears that the business owners could change their minds and decide to complete all business transactions from home, including the sale of high-powered weaponry, and that the town would have no oversight to ensure the couple sticks to their agreement.

A town official said that the zoning compliance officer would have the power to make sure the business sticks to the stipulations in the town’s approval.

Justin Guth, the zoning compliance officer, could not be reached for comment.

Topik and his supporters are expected to file an appeal.