Cheatham had initially asked the county to approve a permit to allow him to continue the practice, but Tuesday he asked the Board of Commissioners to withdraw that request.
A victim of the economic downturn, Cheatham said he was forced to move from his Marietta home three years ago to a rental home in northeast Cobb. When he applied for a business license with the county last year to continue dealing in Class 3 weapons, a practice he conducted in Marietta, the county wouldn’t give him one, saying he had to have a zoning variance.
When neighbors learned that he dealt with antique weapons, such as the 1921 Thompson submachine gun that can cost $35,000, they asked the county to deny the request.
One neighbor, Ben Moravitz, told the Cobb Planning Commission earlier this month that Cheatham doesn’t have the same concern for the neighborhood that resident owners have because he’s a renter. Moravitz also complained that allowing Cheatham to operate a commercial business in the neighborhood could harm his own property values. And he said some of the firearm orders could end up at the wrong address and that the neighborhood could be targeted by thieves.
Another neighbor, Greg Holzhauer, said he was concerned about how Cheatham’s firearms were being secured. During the April 2 Planning Commission meeting, board member Judy Williams also took issue with Cheatham being a renter.
On Tuesday, 25 people turned out in opposition of Cheatham’s request for a permit. But before they could speak, Cheatham asked that his request be withdrawn, saying he would move the business to a different location.
Cheatham said he was disappointed by the tactics some in the neighborhood have taken, such as releasing false information about him.
“Some people, because they decided they wanted to do harm to me and my property, painted a target on me by publishing what they knew to be erroneous information,” Cheatham said. “A Class 3 dealer is not allowed to sell high explosives, destructive devices and nobody sells grenades.”
One neighbor who made such a claim was Moravitz, who had told the planning commission that Cheatham sold explosives.
Cheatham said he resented being portrayed as a second-class citizen simply because he rented his home.
“You know, all of you know, with one exception, I’m an architect, and I’m a builder, and I’ve been a developer. I got caught in this downturn,” he said. “But I’ve owned over $20 million worth of property in Cobb County, a lot more than that in Fulton. I had 883 acres in north Cherokee and some DeKalb County property. I don’t like being thought of as a secondary citizen because I’m renting a house.”
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell recommended his request be withdrawn without prejudice on the condition that no business transactions be conducted at his home. Birrell also gave Cheatham 30 days to find another leasing space for his antique firearms business and asked him to send the county a copy of the new business license once he obtained it.
County Chairman Tim Lee said he had many good friends in the Jefferson Township neighborhood.
“I totally understand in light of the current events and communities across this country why there might be some sensitivity to this request,” Lee said during the meeting. “On the other hand, I’ve known Lamar Cheatham for a number of years and can speak to him as an individual to be one of high character and high regard to safety and protocol and respect for those weapons that he has in his homes. And I’m positive that he’s taken more than enough precaution to make sure there’s no potential … that these are anything that might be acquired inappropriately.”