Gun ranges OK’d in Mequon – barely
Proposals will still need individual approval from the city

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

Nov. 12, 2015

MEQUON — A standing-room-only crowd of more than 120 Mequon residents packed City Hall Tuesday to share views for and against initial steps to allow indoor sport shooting ranges in Mequon.

After taking 70 minutes to hear the opinions of 34 residents, the Common Council spent another 50 minutes debating the topic before Mayor Dan Abendroth broke a 4-4 tie vote to allow the ranges as conditional uses in two different industrially zoned areas in Mequon.

There were 11 people who supported the proposed change and 23 who at least partly opposed it, although many of those said they did not favor a possible site along North Port Washington Road, but would be open to the concept elsewhere.

Mequon residents Mark and Cheryle Rebholz want to develop a range to provide a place for area residents to use firearms. Cheryle Rebholz told the Planning Commission, which backed the concept unanimously in October, that a growing number of people are obtaining concealed-carry permits, but there is “nothing close and convenient” where they can practice. The Rebholzes attended Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, but did not speak.

Many of the residents’ comments and much of the discussion among council members centered around the possibility that one potential site for the range would be near Port Washington and Donges Bay roads. As the proposed ordinance was written, that site would not have been allowed because it is not in either the B-5 or B-6 zoning districts.

Tuesday’s action simply clears the way for a proposal for a range, which would receive separate and more specific consideration from the city. The B-5 zoning area is the city’s industrial park that runs roughly from the south end of Steffen Middle School toward Donges Bay Road. The B-6 zoning area is in the far southwest corner of the city, bounded by County Line and Wasaukee roads. The range could not be

located within 1,000 feet of a school or day care, which would be an issue with a part of the B-5 area.

The first resident to come to the microphone said he is a physician and called it “an act of desperation” to build a shooting range in Mequon.

“Our community is better than this,” said Marc Hirsch. “As a community, it is beneath us to put a public shooting range in close proximity to schools.” David Delahunt, who has lived in Mequon with his wife for 27 years, said he holds a concealedcarry permit and is a member of the National Rifle Association.

“Responsible gun owners need a safe, well-run and convenient facility where they can practice and hone their skills,” he said. Ruth Kantrowitz told aldermen that she is concerned about safety and traffic in the area surrounding a range, particularly along North Port Washington Road.

“Putting a gun range near homes does bring down property values,” she said. “I am prepared to hire a lawyer and bring parents together to make sure this does not happen in this town.”

Theresa Kennedy said her family moved to Mequon three years ago and selected the community primarily due to the schools and its safe reputation. She said they likely would have lived elsewhere if there had been a shooting range in the city.

“It takes one irresponsible act to end in a tragedy – and I don’t want this to be my child,” she said. “I would think twice about frequenting a business near a shooting range. Who knows what can happen in a split second?”

Steve Bzdusek, who retired in 2013 as a Mequon police officer and now works as a firearms instructor with a personal business and with Wisconsin State Fair Police Department, said he encourages students in his concealed-carry classes to get more training. He said there are not many nearby options to practice skills.

“The promotion of safe and responsible gun ownership is a plus to a community,” he said.

When the discussion turned to the Common Council, several members said they would be comfortable with allowing ranges in the B-6 zoning district in far southwest Mequon and possibly in the industrial park north of Donges Bay Road. However, they said they were opposed to the Port Washington Road site.

“We’re all educated, we love our community and we love our children – and we know what we’re comfortable with,” said Pamela Fuhry-Adams, whose District 8 follows Lake Michigan east of North Port Washington Road. She voted no.

Rob Strzelczyk, whose District 1 covers most of north Mequon, said he grew up around guns, took a gun-safety class at age 12 and has used guns safely ever since. He said it has been his goal since being elected to the Common Council to keep Mequon “a familyfriendly community.” Strzelczyk, who voted no, urged his colleagues to balance rewards with the risks.

“We need to be cautious,” he said. “This is a very important issue for the city of Mequon.”

John Hawkins, who voted yes, said he did not like the North Port Washington Road idea, but refuted some of the comments made by members of the public that mentally ill gun owners coming to the range could result in a tragedy.

“As to mentally ill gun owners, we face that risk right now without a shooting range,” said Hawkins, whose District 6 lies between Mequon and Donges Bay roads.

District 5 member Mark Gierl said the range would be tucked away and not near homes. He also refuted claims made by some residents that lead produced as firearms are shot would cause a health risk. Gierl, who voted yes, took exception with a resident who said that those who favored the gun range would be voted out of office.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I work my butt off in this job for a measly amount of pay – and I do this for the good of Mequon.”

Before getting to the final vote, council members rejected, 6-2, a proposal to limit the range to the B-6 district in far southwest Mequon.

Members also rejected, 7-1, a motion to table the proposal to allow more time for study.

Gary Achterberg can be reached at