Judge refuses to issue CUP for gun shop

Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson last week denied an appeal from a Eureka Springs business owner who was seeking a conditional use permit to operate a gun and pawn shop inside the city limits.

At the conclusion of a hearing that lasted nearly four hours on Thursday, May 16, in the courtroom of the Carroll County Western District Courthouse in Eureka Springs, Jackson granted defense attorney Sara Monoghan’s motion for a directed verdict, saying he would not overturn the decisions of the Eureka Springs planning commission and city council, which both had denied plaintiff Keeling Grubb’s application for the conditional use permit.

The complaint filed in July 2023 by Whitfield Hyman, Grubb’s attorney, had asked the court to direct the city to issue a conditional use permit. The complaint also sought compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.

At the May 16 hearing, Jackson rejected Hyman’s argument that the objections of Eureka Springs residents who told the city council they were opposed to Grubb’s application “don’t matter.”

“I’m sorry, but these people’s feelings don’t matter,” Hyman said in his final arguments, at one point using a mocking tone of voice when describing a local resident’s objection to Grubb’s application. “What matters is the law.”

Jackson cited a state law in saying that the planning commission and city council can consider opposition from nearby residents in making decisions regarding permit applications.

“The people’s feelings do matter,” Jackson said.

Jackson also rejected Hyman’s argument that a section of state law that states that a city “shall not enact any ordinance or regulation pertaining to, or regulate in any other manner, the ownership, transfer, transportation, carrying, or possession of firearms, ammunition for firearms, or components of firearms, except as otherwise provided in state or federal law …” was applicable in this case.

“The court’s going to find that this statute does not affect the commerce of firearms,” Jackson said.

After the hearing, Grubb said he would reapply for a conditional use permit, while Hyman said he planned to appeal Jackson’s decision.

Grubb later did file a new application to operate a gun shop inside the city. A hearing on that application is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, in the Auditorium.

Defendants in the lawsuit were the City of Eureka Springs and Mayor Butch Berry in his official capacity.

“I was pleased to have the Judge uphold the validity of the Zoning Ordinance in regards to Conditional Use Permits,” Berry said by email. “And the city’s right to use citizens opinions … in determining granting a CUP.