Gun issue may prompt Castle Rock planning commissioners to quit
If Castle Rock Town Council decides to allow the open-carrying of firearms into town buildings, many, if not all, planning commissioners may resign, according to a letter submitted this week to the town clerk's office.
The letter, signed by Michael Fronczak, acting chair of the Castle Rock Planning Commission, states that "...many on the Commission have expressed that they would feel unsafe serving as a Commissioner if open carry were permitted.
"It is likely that many, if not all, members of the Planning Commission would resign because of the increased possibility for intimidation and/or violence,"according to the letter.
The letter was delivered in time for the town council's Jan. 21 hearing on a proposed ordinance to repeal the town's current open-carry ban.
Castle Rock Mayor Paul Donahue, who is managing partner of the Centennial Gun Club, brought up the issue in June 2013, asking that council consider repealing the ban because of his concern that the ban denies a Constitutional right.
Castle Rock's public safety commission, which advises the town council on police and fire matters, voted Sept. 5, 2013 to recommend against repealing the ban. And about 95 percent of town employees surveyed said they didn't want it repealed.
But in December, the council directed staff to draft a proposed ordinance to repeal the ban in town-owned buildings and properties. If council OKs the ordinance Jan. 21, it would face a second hearing for final approval at a future meeting.
Leslie Lee, a planning commission member, told the News-Press on Jan. 15 that she is seriously considering resigning if it passes.
"I wouldn't feel safe," she said, because of the contentious land-use issues the commission deals with.
Lee said that planning commission members talked about the issue at a Jan. 9 study session and then over the weekend the letter was composed. In the letter the commission states that it "values the public process and the freedom of expression that it guarantees.
"With weapons openly permitted in a public hearing, which can sometimes be very contentious and emotional, are we guaranteeing the freedom of expression? Or are we permitting intimidation of the public? The atmosphere of public hearings does not permit room for the introduction of a weapon."
The letter goes on to state that the commission is a quasi-judicial body that judges land-use cases and whether town regulations have been met and that some cases "require a lot of debate and dialogue."
According to the letter, the commission venue, just like courtrooms, shouldn't allow weapons: "There is always an increased risk for escalation if a weapon is handy."
The commission is asking that if the repeal passes that a police officer be present at public hearings and meetings and that the commission have the right to adjourn if it feels the public's safety is threatened, "...which would cause delays in the land use public hearing process," according to the letter.
"...Castle Rock is not a town immune to gun violence - incidents at the WalMart (sic), Taco Bell, and others have proven that our small town is getting some big city problems. We want to maintain our small town friendliness in our public processes by providing for the public's, and the Planning Commission's, safety."