A new law signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds limiting local governments’ power to regulate home businesses is letting her neighbors open a home-based gun dealership without the need for a city permit.
This past Wednesday, the Des Moines Register, the Des Moines Zoning Board of Adjustment was supposed to hold a public hearing to vet an application from homeowners Travis and Elizabeth Aslin to set up a home-based business that would sell firearms online and allow for on-site pickups.
The Aslins’ plan for their home-based business—which would be located just across the street from the Iowa governor’s mansion—set off a storm of controversy from the neighbors, who argued it could lead to an increase in crime and reduction in property values.
“There is a potential for weapons that can be purchased and fired from this property to have a range of nearly 2000 [feet]—this affect hundreds of houses, businesses, daycares, domestic violence shelters, a school, and the governor’s mansion,”the petition, which was signed some 170 people.
This kind of organized public opposition is often enough to sink conditional use applications. But not in this case.
The day before the Zoning Board of Adjustment was supposed to hold its public hearing on the Aslins permit, the board abruptly took it off the agenda.
Erik Lundy, a city zoning enforcement officer, issued a letter explaining that the Aslins’ proposed firearm selling business qualified as a “no-impact home-based business” under the new home-based business bill signed into law by Reynolds in June.
Travis Aslin alsothat his business was more of a hobby and that he’s sold only two guns in the last five years from his previous home.
The new law prohibits local governments from banning no-impact businesses, provided they don’t generate off-street parking and the business activity takes place inside the house and can’t be viewed by the neighbors. The law also prevents local governments from requiring no-impact home businesses to obtain permits, licenses, or other permissions.
Lundy said the state law prevented the city from requiring the Aslins to get a permit. His letter notes that Travis Aslin’s firearm business is already regulated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which can conduct yearly unannounced inspections.
Lundy’s letter means the couple can now go ahead with their business. Some of the neighborhood opponentsthe Des Moines Register they were planning on appealing the zoning board’s decision and will take it all the way to the local district court if necessary.
The typical conditional use permit controversy normally goes the other way: The property owner is forced to file endless appeals trying to convince the neighbors and city officials that they should be allowed to do what they want with their property.
Iowa’s new protections for home-based businesses have turned that dynamic on its head. It’s now local NIMBYs that have to spin their wheels and spend their money, arguing a new home-based business will be a detriment to the neighborhood that should be stopped.
Fortunately, Iowa’s new home-based business law forces local authorities to focus on the actual impacts of businesses on their neighbors. That pushes local government regulation toward its proper role of combating legitimate nuisances, while otherwise leaving people free to use their property as they see fit.
And if that means a gun dealer can set up shop next to the governor’s house, all the better.