In a flip-flop from just two weeks ago, the Inver Grove Heights city council on Monday night approved a DNR-sponsored gun safety program on the Darvan Acres property owned by longtime resident Vance Grannis, Jr.
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Mayor George Tourville prefaced the discussion by apologizing to the public for this being the fourth reading of the issue and explaining that one of the city council members had reconsidered his or her vote from the Aug. 13 meeting.
City Attorney Tim Kuntz explained that, under City of Inver Grove Heights policy, any vote can be reconsidered at the meeting at which it occurred or the next regular meeting.
But the motion to reconsider, Kuntz explained, could only come from the councilmembers on the “prevailing side” of the original vote, in this case Mayor Tourville or councilman Bill Klein.
City Administrator Joe Lynch confirmed that councilman Bill Klein asked for the reconsideration.
A CHANGE IN DIRECTION
Klein appeared to have changed his mind after amendments were made to the original proposal that altered the location of the shooting range and the direction of the shots fired.
The new language included in the motion states the following: “The location of the target and backstop shall be such that the direction of fire shall only be toward land for a distance of at least one-quarter mile owned by or under the same control as the land where the target and backstop are located.”
The new language means that potentially errant shots fired would stay entirely on the Grannis property and that there would never be a reason for anyone to fire a gun in the direction of the adjacent property owned by the Lindberg family.
The compromise was reached after Kirk Lindberg sat down with Vance Grannis, Jr. to address the concerns of his friends and family.
“This issue is literally tearing apart families and long-standing friendships. That is why my father and Vance Grannis, Jr. are not here tonight,” Lindberg told the council while holding a white flag. “I’m wearing a red shirt tonight to show that I share the concerns of my family, friends and neighbors. I’m carrying a white flag of truce because we’re at the time where compromise and reason need to step in.”
The audience in the city council chambers was divided Monday night by those wearing red t-shirts—meaning they oppose the gun safety program—and everyone else.
THE ISSUE OF NOTIFICATION
An issue that was raised frequently throughout Monday night’s meeting was how best to notify neighborhood residents when shooting classes were scheduled.
“Vance didn’t have a good way to (notify residents) and since the DNR was sponsoring the classes, he felt it was their responsibility,” Kirk Lindberg said.
DNR Second Lieutenant Alex Gutierrez—who has been present at every city council meeting on the subject—told Lindberg that he did not have the authority to assign the task of notification to anyone but that he would personally pay to put warning signs on the two main trails that connect the Grannis and Lindberg properties.
Inver Grove Heights resident Kristine Zellmer has been an outspoken opponent of the program from the beginning.
“If he’s going to have this in our neighborhood, we have a right to know about it, and it is his responsibility to notify the neighborhood,” Zellmer told the council. “Signs present the day of (classes) isn’t good enough. The DNR is a huge organization and they’re never going to do it. We need to know what days they’re going to be out there shooting. It shouldn’t be that hard.”
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Mayor Tourville’s attempt to address the obviously unresolved issue were rebuffed. “Because it was brought up several times tonight, are we going to discuss the notification issue?” he asked the council.
“I’m not going to let my motion go that way. I don’t agree with that,” councilman Dennis Madden replied.
“I think that is something that can be worked out between the folks in the neighborhood. I think that can be worked out in time,” councilwoman Rosemary Piekarski Krech agreed.
Tourville took the last opportunity to address the council and the audience.
“In my own opinion, I think we could do this program somewhere else in the City of Inver Grove with a lot less hassle,” Tourville told the audience. “I also want to go on record saying, for the last two years, I’ve helped Mr. Grannis in the state legislature taking a look at funding sources (for a conservation easement). Even if this does pass—I’m going to vote ‘no’—but even if it passes, I’m going to continue doing that for the vision of the Darvan property. I think it’s an important legacy for Mr. Grannis and important for the City of Inver Grove Heights.”
“I’ve talked to Mr. Grannis about this and he knows where I stand,” Tourville said. “Unfortunately, it’s all about the money. If he had the money (for a conservation easement) right now, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But it is what it is.”
When the city clerk called roll, the final vote was as follows:
Councilman Chip Grannis : Abstain
Piekarski Krech: Yes
No timeline for the implementation of the program was discussed Monday night.