Gun Club Owner: 'You Have Every Right to be Angry'
City say it has no enforcement authority to change situation at gun club, but will look into developing design guide for ranges; in the meantime, neighbors say they are tired of waiting while owners hope to make things right.
The answers weren't what neighbors of the Schultz Resort Rod & Gun Club wanted to hear, because they say they've heard it all before.
The gun club's design of its shooting range came before the Finance Committee Tuesday night, and was soon obvious any 'fixes' to keep bullets from reaching neighboring homes wasn't going to come soon.
Gregg Schmidt raised concerns after an incident on Nov. 18 had him and his children, who were playing in their yard, hitting the dirt as he said the whizzing sound of bullets could be heard overhead. He sent a letter to Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti and was present at the meeting to tell them he was frustrated and tired over the issue.
"We're being told over and over that in another two years they'll be making changes, and it seems ludicrous that nothing can be done," Schmidt said.
Another neighbor, Dave Helm, said "we keep putting bandaids on this but nothing happens, and there's no follow through."
"You have every right to be angry - I would be if a bullet hit my home," said gun club past president Mike Williams in an effort to strike a conciliatory tone.
Previously, police had responded to errant rounds in 2010, with recommendations to increase the height of the berms behind the targets, which were estimated at the time to be about 10 feet. After that incident, it appeared that no further follow up was done.
Leonard Pilak, who represented the club then and is now president said in 2010 that improvements would have been cost prohibitive as the gun club did not own the property.
However, Pilak and Williams, said that the portion of property in question was sold since 2010 to an investment group, and that the gun club just purchased the land from that group. Now that they own the property, they said they were committed to making the needed changes.
"We have gotten approval to stockpile fill to help build up the berms, we intend to employ more security cameras and we always require safety training and tests for anyone who uses the range," Williams said. "Things are changing with the club internally, and very rapidly. Once we receive 501(c)3 status, we can make the needed changes, but the work will begin first with getting permits and engineering. The DNR is also involved as some areas we are changing are considered degraded wetlands. I would say it's going to take about two years."
Adding to the frustration was the city's position that nothing could be done immediately to enforce a change.
"There's no enforcement that we have because of the zoning codes - they are grandfathered. We have no teeth to make the club change the design, but we could look into creating design specs for ranges in the city," Chiaverotti offered. The idea would be to tie the club's license to the design standards for safety, but developing those specs would also take some time.
She asked the committee to approve taking steps to have a consultant provide specs, either through hiring someone or having an organization like the National Rifle Association assist, which can be done at no cost. After that, it still would be up to the city attorney to review what the city could enforce.
Alderman Dan Soltysiak also said that without hard proof that any of the bullets came from the range, he wasn't sure that the problem even resided with the club.
"It's very difficult to prove where those bullets came from, and in reviewing the video, it appears that a family was there shooting with pistols at that time," he said, adding that it was a day during gun deer season and shots could have come from a hunter.
In the meantime, Pilak and Williams have reached out to neighbors to see what they can do to communicate better, perhaps finally putting their concerns to rest.