Delafield Plan Commission shoots down bid for reopening gun ranges
Litigation likely if Common Council follows suit, attorney says

By Josh Perttunen - Freeman Staff

Nov. 22, 2013

DELAFIELD - The unanimous recommendation of the Delafield Plan Commission Wednesday night to reject the Hartland Sportsmen’s Club’s bid to reopen its gun ranges could prompt legal action if the Common Council follows that advice at its Dec. 2 meeting, said the club’s legal counsel.  

Those making this decision cited lingering safety concerns, but attorney Jeremy Levinson said the club furnished a cadre of range experts to address and dispel all worries. 

“I was surprised and dismayed,” he said. “The Plan Commission claimed to be having cooperative discussions with us involving safety. The city indicated that we satisfied their concerns regarding each successive wave of issues.”

He added that the commissioners “kept moving the target” on the club, until eventually making their decision on Wednesday. Safety has been the chief concern since the ranges closed nearly three years ago - after a stray, spent bullet from the facility struck a pregnant woman dining outdoors at the Delafield Brewhaus.

“We’ve strived to reinvent this club so that the city and neighbors understand that it is a safe club. At the end of the day, this wasn’t really about whether the club was safe enough,” Levinson said. “It was about whether they wanted the club at all.”

Municipalities throughout the state have used suburban sprawl as an excuse to squeeze out these gun ranges that predate the developments around them, Levinson said.

Plan Commissioner Michele DeYoe, who also serves on the common council, emphasized that the decision was about safety, but also questioned the location.

“I didn’t feel the club presented enough information to alleviate all of the safety concerns,” she said. “The recommendation by city planner Roger Dupler to deny the permit pointed out that the club had failed to address some issues.”

Of note, DeYoe said, was the need to reorient the direction of fire at the trap range to accommodate a 300-yard shot drop zone, rather than 209 yards (the National Rifle Association standard) - as the club had proposed. Overheard safety baffles to intercept 90-degree ricochets would also need to be installed at the majority of the ranges, she said.

“And I’m not sure the club could ever be adequately safe in that location,” DeYoe said.

When it is an actionable item, as it is expected to be on Dec. 2, the Common Council could go against the commission’s recommendation. If it does not, Mayor Ed McAleer’s speculation at previous meetings that litigation will follow suit could prove true.

“We’ll need to look at other courses of action,” Levinson said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into avoiding legal action.”