LOCKPORT - A plan to convert a former flower shop into a business incubator and a city building inspector's request to become an Internet gun distributor drew the attention of the city Planning Board last week.
Both Kathy O'Keefe, the businesswoman with an elaborate plan for the vacant store on Stevens Street, and David J. Miller, the building inspector, were directed to come back next month for decisions. However, the board did allow O'Keefe to begin repairing the roof of the store.
Her idea, which she calls Windsor Village, is to turn the century-old complex, which originally was three barns and a cinder-block building, into a home for her own business, a children's hands-on play center, and four boutique shops.
O'Keefe said the 4,000-square-foot store, which last housed Wilhelm & Ashe Floristry until it moved out three years ago, would have an open floor plan inspired by that used at Gordie Harper's Bazaar, a popular Newfane food and craft outlet.
But O'Keefe said she wants real stores, "not just hobbies," at her business cooperative. She said she has received interest from shop owners she knows around the region who would like to try a Lockport location: a bakery, a clothing store, a children's activity store and a women's art gallery.
O'Keefe also would reopen her Noah's Ark toy store and play center, which closed last year. The store, which operated for 11 years, was located in the Bewley Building, owned by Planning Board Chairwoman Charlene Seekins-Smith.
The board insisted that O'Keefe must submit a detailed site plan, especially since she intends to remodel the exterior to look like three separate buildings and to reflect the roofing and window dormer style of the 19th century.
Chief Building Inspector Jason Dool wasn't convinced that was necessary, since the parking lot and the entrances are staying the same. "It went from retail to retail," he said.
O'Keefe said she'd like to see the business open this year.
"A project of this significance, we cannot in good conscience eliminate the approval of a site plan," member David C. Chamberlain said.
Meanwhile, Miller, the building inspector, said he wants to open an Internet gun business in his Park Lane Circle home. He said the guns would be shipped directly from the manufacturer's warehouse to another federally licensed gun dealer near his customer's home.
He said guns wouldn't come to his home unless the buyer lived in Lockport and came over to pick up his weapons.
Board member Brian Bower asked Miller if the weapons that might be temporarily stored in his home could include an AK-47 assault rifle. "It could," Miller replied.
He promised a locked gun safe in his basement would be used to store any guns shipped in.
Miller, a former Marine, said that even though he lives close to Roy B. Kelley Elementary School, the federal 1,000-foot gun-free school zone law doesn't apply to single-family homes. He said that if his business takes off, he would move it to a commercial building.
He said he needs approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as New York State to become a gun dealer.
"I grew up around guns. It's something I enjoy," Miller said. The board wanted Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael J. Norris to do his own legal research before acting on Miller's request.
"Not that we're against this, but we don't want to approve anything that's illegal," Chamberlain said. "Otherwise, we'll have some culpability, too."
In other matters, the Planning Board gave the go-ahead to the Historic Palace Theatre, 2 East Ave., to install six metal plates on the west side exterior wall of the building, to be used for advertising the six upcoming shows next season. New burgundy fabric awnings also were approved to go over all the theater's windows.
Prudden & Kandt Funeral Home, 242 Genesee St., was approved for a 13-foot-long, 8-foot-high enclosed passageway connecting its two existing buildings, so the smaller one can be used as a mortuary.
And Rubberform Recycled Products was given retroactive approval for its move to pave a gravel lot on South Niagara Street.