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Delafield gun club seeks new permit

Opposition already building, according to alderwoman

July 27, 2011

City of Delafield - The Hartland Sportsman's Club is seeking the city's permission to incrementally reopen the gun club as safety improvements are completed on its firing ranges at 730 Maple Ave., south of I-94.

The city revoked the gun club's conditional-use permit in June 2010 after a woman was struck by a stray bullet in April from one of the firing ranges as she was having dinner on a nearby restaurant's outdoor patio.

The day before the incident, neighbors of the gun club had presented evidence during a public hearing indicating that the gun club was failing to abide by the safety requirements outlined in the permit.

Although the proposed new permit seeks to correct some of those safety deficiencies, it has already generated stiff opposition from residents living near the gun club, according Alderwoman Beth Leonard.

"This is going to be a replay of last year with a lot of people voicing their opposition. Some are already questioning why the city would even consider issuing another permit. They are not very happy about it," Leonard said.

Lawyers representing the gun club did not return Lake Country Publications telephone messages before press time.

Mayor Ed McAleer said he expects City Attorney James Hammes will guide the Plan Commission and the Common Council throughout the process of considering the gun club's new application.

"We are going to be very careful throughout the process to make sure we have all of the I's dotted and T's crossed," he added.

McAleer said he would announce at the Wednesday, July 27, Plan Commission meeting that the city has received the application, and gun club representatives are expected to present the proposal at the Aug. 31 Plan Commission meeting. A public hearing is required before the Plan Commission votes on whether to the issue the permit.

The Plan Commission's recommendations are subject to Common Council approval. In June 2010, the council overrode the Plan Commission recommendations when council members voted to revoke the permit.

City Planner Roger Dupler said the proposed conditional-use permit contemplates the archery range and trap-shooting facilities being open after the city resolves whether there is sufficient open space around the trap-shooting facility to meet safety standards established by the National Rifle Association.

Dupler has previously said the available open space is a few feet short of the standard. However, he said gun club ballistics experts argue there is sufficient open space to meet the standards.

The remaining rifle and pistol fire ranges would be allowed to open after the gun club completed the safety standard improvements outlined in the permit application, according to Dupler.

However, there could be more than safety issues involved in the city's consideration of the latest permit filed by the gun club, according to McAleer.

"This is a new permit application. We are not sure yet how the city ordinances will blend with state laws,"McAleer added.

There is a statelaw that limits municipalities' ability to regulate the operations of existing gun clubs other than enforcing public safety standards. However, since the previous permit was revoked, there is a question whether the Hartland Sportsman Club is considered an existing club.

If the state law does not apply, then a wide range of issues - such as noise, operating hours and whether the gun club is an appropriate use of the land - can be considered by the Plan Commission and Common Council, in addition to public safety regulations.

The permit was revoked last year after Dupler determined there was a risk that some rounds might ricochet off the range because cobblestones, concrete slabs, vehicle tires and other materials were in the ground on the firing ranges.

In addition, there were insufficient safety precautions on a firing range that featured a mechanical deer where hunters could site and shoot their rifles for deer season.

Dupler also determined there were operational safety procedures outlined in the permit that the gun club was not following.

There were conflicting theories about how a round escaped a pistol range and traveled about 300 yards before striking Reluca Buznea as she was sitting outside at the Brewhaus restaurant.

Experts for the gun club asserted that a .45-caliber round struck a plastic bottle filled with water and ricocheted off the range. However, Delafield police disputed the ricochet theory. They thought the .45-caliber pistol was aimed at such an angle that the bullet passed under a protective barrier near the firing line and passed over the top of a safety berm behind the targets.

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