Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 18:31
Town may have to intervene to address concerns of neighbors
As the debate unfolded, Town of Fredonia officials were hopeful that neighbors and representatives from the privately operated Ozaukee Fish & Game could reach a compromise that would limit the noise caused by gunfire at the club’s shooting range.
The prospects for an amicable resolution to the noise problem from the property on Highway Y seemed to fade at the November meeting of the Plan Commission.
At several recent town meetings, neighbors of the shooting range complained that the gunfire has become increasingly disturbing.
They said their plight has been worsened, because the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department uses an adjacent property for a shooting range available only to law enforcement officers.
Before the town attempted to impose a conditional-use permit for the Ozaukee Fish & Game range, officials hoped a consensus could be reached on hours that shooting would be allowed.
The club allows shooting from 9 a.m. to dusk, seven days a week. With a general membership of 100 and a hunting membership of 67, it is not accepting new members.
Town records on the club are sketchy, and date back to 1969.
Gun Club President Scott Heppe said his organization has no record of having agreed to any previous restrictions and suggested there is little reason to accept conditional-use limits now.
Heppe said state law offers protections to shooting ranges that were in operation prior to 1998.
“The way I read the statutes, the mere sound of guns shooting on a shooting range cannot be interpreted as disorderly conduct,” Heppe said.
“Are we going to give in to demand? We don’t have to. There are things we are willing to consider internally, but why would we agree to a conditional-use permit?”
Heppe said the shooting range dates back to at least the 1960s, predating many of the neighbors who have complained about the gunfire.
“Noise is going to happen. Noise is not a valid complaint for a shooting range, according to state statutes,” he said.
“We don’t want to be bad neighbors, but we aren’t going to give up our rights. If your conditions cost me customers and revenue, how do I make that up?”
Town Chairman Richard Mueller was careful not to get caught up in the legal question of weapon rights.
“As a courtesy to your neighbors, we are asking that you limit your hours,” Mueller said.
Despite that hopeful comment, the Plan Commission was expected to review an opinion from the town attorney on the issue at its Wednesday, Dec. 4 meeting.
Town officials were more optimistic that they can get a reduction in the noise coming from the sheriff’s department range, by appealing to the County Board to limit the use of the range to law enforcement officers from the county.
The county range is not used on weekends.