Charleston businessman Ben Chase figured he had found a perfect new use for the mostly vacant warehouse he built on Huger Street, just south of the Meeting Street on-ramp to the Ravenel bridge.
He planned to convert the 6,000-square-foot steel-sided building into an indoor shooting range.
Now, his plans are in jeopardy after City Council recently gave initial approval to two ordinances that would further restrict where indoor or outdoor shooting ranges can open within the city.
Council members agreed to rush the ordinances onto their agenda earlier this month so they would be pending and legally binding as Chase sought a permit.
The zoning change would restrict such ranges to light or heavy industrial areas that are at least 1,000 feet from the nearest church, city park or home.
The Huger Street warehouse is on a block with the Eastside Missionary Baptist Church and a few other vacant buildings. The Meeting Street Manor housing project is a few blocks away, as are other churches.
Chase said he had been meeting with city officials to discuss the project but had no idea the ordinances were coming. "They really met with me just as a ruse," he said. "I feel it's disturbing the city would not follow the rules it has."
Chase said he supports the mayor, but added, "I don't have the authority of picking and choosing the laws I follow, so why should they?"
But City Councilman Robert Mitchell, who represents that area, said the shooting range is a bad idea.
"You have a church across the street," he said. "I just don't think it's suitable for an area like that. Nothing like that has been placed in a residential area before that I know of."
Mitchell said he's more concerned about security issues than noise, traffic or parking.
"I have so much shooting anyway with individuals in the community."
Chase said he thinks the shooting range would increase the neighborhood's security.
"I think we have a safer environment if criminals know more citizens are armed," he said. "If I was a criminal, I would think twice about going into someone's house or business if I knew more people were armed."
Police Chief Greg Mullen said the only authorized range on the peninsula has been an annual turkey shoot at the Charleston Rifle Club.
The city prohibits discharging a firearm "except in cases of urgent necessity" or for hunting as permitted under state law.
The city has provided exceptions for shooting galleries, theatrical performances and military displays, but City Council also gave initial approval to an ordinance that would take away all those exceptions.
Zoning Administrator Lee Batchelder said theatrical performances and military displays would still be allowed because the blanks fired are not considered discharging a firearm.
Batchelder said the "shooting gallery" exception never was meant as a "true shooting range" but rather something set up at a fair or carnival.
The city's Planning Commission is expected to review the shooting range zoning next month, and City Council will consider it later.
Chase said he hopes the end result will let him convert his warehouse into an indoor shooting range, but added, "My attorneys and I are exploring all options. The minute I get a denial letter, that will probably get the ball rolling."