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City OKs Second Reading of Gun Safety Program, Residents React

The approval came after a three-and-a-half hour session during which residents were allowed to voice their opinions of the program.

The Inver Grove Heights City Council Monday night approved 4-0 the second reading of a proposal to create a DNR-sponsored gun safety program on the Darvan Acres property owned by Vance Grannis, Jr. 

Councilman Chip Grannis abstained from voting.

Different from a public shooting range that is open to anyone with a gun permit, the DNR program includes the following requirements:

  • Held six times per year with classroom and practical training
  • Located on at least 50 acres of contiguous land
  • Shooting range a quarter-mile from any residence not on the property
  • 50’ incline behind the targets
  • Only .22 calibre rifles with non-lead ammunition
  • Chief of police can add any other conditions deemed necessary

The Council approved an interim use permit for the Grannis site on June 11 but switched it to a permitted use permit Monday night.  

The approval came after a three-and-a-half hour session during which residents were allowed to voice their opinions of the program. A sampling of those opinions are below:

CITY RESPONSE

(George Tourville, mayor): "I don’t think anyone has ever questioned the safety of the DNR program. But it begs the question, if this is so popular and the DNR thinks that this is so great why doesn’t the DNR take a look at making a better effort to provide locations for training that aren’t in neighborhoods … I mean, I gotta ask. 

"I’m getting a lot of emails from people outside of Minnesota asking why the city council is stopping the DNR from doing this. The fact is the DNR owns a lot of land in the City of Inver Grove Heights and it could come in and set up a range so fast it’d make all of our heads spin.

"I’m going to vote for the motion for more information but I think (the gun range) is in the wrong place. I think the DNR program is a great program. I think the DNR could do a program in the City of Inver Grove Heights on property they already own.

"I think the DNR wants no exposure and no additional pieces. I only say that because they own 200-plus acres in the City of Inver Grove Heights and they could find the same terrain and same stuff in that but I don’t think they want to. And I find that a little odd because I think this is a placement within a neighborhood. I think we could do gun training in other places in Inver Grove Heights. And I think we could work with the DNR to find a place for next to nothing but they never came to the city."

RESIDENTS AGAINST THE PROGRAM

(Audobon Rd. neighbor): "I don’t think any of us have any problem with firearm safety, just the proposed location. The noise is an annoyance or nuisance but it’s not the main concern. The main concern is safety, and the proximity of people and residences to where this is going to occur. While I understand accidents are rare, they do happen." 

(Dale, Arnold Ave. neighbor): "The question here is not gun safety, it’s location. We talk about this as being a nature preserve in the future. A nature preserve to me is not someplace you go shoot and then build buildings and have parking lots. Secondly, what is the benefit to Inver Grove Heights residents? First of all, we can’t discharge guns in Inver Grove Heights so what is the benefit of having training here. If you have to drive a distance to discharge a gun, why can’t you drive a distance to have your training?"

(Kristine, Aurelia Ct. neighbor, biologist for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service): "We moved here because of the beauty, serenity and wildlife. We did not move here because they allow shooting out our backdoor like they do in other neighborhoods. They haven’t allowed shooting in Inver Grove since 1963 and bringing it in now—I know it’s a controlled environment and only six times per year—is going to decrease the value of our homes. It’s also going to decrease the value of our neighborhood. I’m on those trails 4-5 times a week with my young kids. Am I going to have to worry about them being shot?

"The eagle’s nest is 350 yards away from the proposed site. Because the bald eagle is protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—both of which are federal acts—and we also have blue herons and egrets that live and nest in the area, we have a federal obligation to make sure we’re not disturbing their nesting sites."

(Lee Lindberg, owner of 101 acres in Marcott Lakes region): "For me there are questions beyond gun safety. I am for gun safety. That’s not what we’re discussing tonight. This land consists of 101-acres of platted land. Somewhere along the line, we decided maybe enough development on this land is enough. So we decided to quit the development aspect. We planted trees by the hundreds and maintained the trails ourselves. There are 41 undeveloped plots on this land, five of which abut the property line (along the proposed site), a few yards away from the center of the firing range. How many people would be interested in buying a piece of land that abuts a firing range. 

"As the adjacent property owner, I had to find out through the grapevine that there was a planning commission held to discuss this program and I’m within 100 yards of this thing. You don’t need equipment or experts to tell you (the June 23 noise test) was loud. Who is going to indemnify me if there is an accident from a shell or a fire starts from ricocheting on a rock? All of a sudden, I’m liable. I don’t want that liability. I shouldn’t have to take that responsibility and then pay taxes beside. I don’t think that’s fair."

RESIDENTS FOR THE PROGRAM

(Steve Sanford, DNR instructor, 35-year IGH resident): "If there is a bottleneck in this whole situation it’s finding a place for the kids to do the field shoot. Try not to lose focus that this is for the students, most of whom are kids."

(Grant Pilkis, 96th St. neighbor): "This is (Grannis’s) vision … his property … that he has literally given to the City of Inver Grove Heights. The bottom line is that this is the way he has chosen to construct his vision. It may not be the way I would have chosen to do it, or the way you would have chosen but it is what he chose.

"As long as this man walks the face of the earth, I think he gets to choose what happens (on his land). I think he gets to make the vision as he sees it take place. So I think we take all of the beauty of the Audobon Society and all the fishing and trails and walking along with something he wants to do. I think we end up all being the winners."

(Heidi Leonard, DNR firearms safety instructor): "I just want to reiterate that we’re not here to ask to open a shooting range. It’s a program that’s run six times a year that would require about an hour-and-a-half of students shooting .22 calibre rifles in a very safe and controlled environment.

"There are a lot of hunters and gun-owners in Inver Grove Heights. My team of instructors are teaching these classes to make sure those people know the rules and benefits of using them safely and storing them properly. We live in a world with video games where kids get to be trigger happy. We teach them to keep their fingers off the trigger and never, ever assume the firearm is unloaded. Overall we want students to develop and awareness of the total environment." 

(Dian Piekarski): "I ask myself why would Inver Grove think about doing this? I often come up here and I’m opposed to things. Well I’m not opposed to this. I’m absolutely in support of the entire 250-acre project …. When I grew up my father enrolled me in gun safety but when he picked me up and realized it was all boys, I never got to go back. To this day I’m afraid of guns. If it opens and it’s open to adults, I’ll be there. And I’ll be there with my 11-year-old daughter. I think people need to know guns are to be respected and guns are for things other than shooting people."

(Alex Gutierrez, 2nd lieutenant, DNR Safety & Wildlife Training): "In the 50-plus years we’ve been providing firearms safety training through the DNR there has never been an accident on the firing line.

"The eagles have been discussed. I do work for the Department of Natural Resources which protects wildlife—that’s my job as a conservation officer—and we have talked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the eagle’s are outside the one-eighth of a mile that is required for a permit. And even if it wasn’t outside that zone, we’d probably get the permit anyway because a .22 is not considered a loud noise at that distance.

"During the noise test we conducted on June 23, at .11 miles our certified and calibrated decibel reader recorded a spike of 61.2 decibels. According to OSHA and the Minnesota Department of Health, a normal conversation is usually around 60 and 67 decibels between two people three feet apart. So that’s how much noise we created."

(Vance Grannis, Jr.): "I know some people don’t want to see this done. First, the high school won’t be able to use it for their environmental education program. Then, these outdoor skills classes aren’t supposed to be there. I’m waiting for someone to tell me my daughter can’t swim in the lake because she’s getting too close to the eagles. The eagles haven’t minded her swimming there for all these years but somebody’s gonna say that.

"There are some that would be happy if the environmental education center and the conservation easement went away. Sure, I do have a vision, but I can’t accomplish it on my own. Mr. Lindberg is the only one that has a signed agreement with the county to get the conservation easement. I do not. Hopefully at some point I will. But in order to get that, the county has to get its money … and they get that from the state.

"I believe there are those in the state who will be upset if the DNR gun safety program is not approved. I haven’t heard anybody say ‘we will not fund it’ but there are people that are watching this and I think they are concerned. It’s not me saying I’m going to pull the string but I can’t (achieve my vision) without this other help. So, is (the DNR gun safety program) totally vital to everything else? I don’t know. But I think it’s important.

"There is a plan to, someday, if we can get the funding, after we get the conservation easements, to put in an education building. I can’t tell you if it’ll happen a year from now, 10 years from now or ever. I keep getting asked ‘What all’s going to happen here?’ We have a lot of things that we’d like to see happen but if the state cuts off the funding, and the county doesn’t get its money, it all goes away folks."

Diane Baum July 12, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I am so surprised at the "not in my backyard!" mentality here. To teach responsible gun ownership is better than just handing a gun to someone who has no idea what they are doing and maybe creating more disaster than if they were in a controlled setting, learning at the hands of skilled instructors. The main theme behind not having it is the noise factor. Think to various cities who have fireworks celebrations during the summer. In South St Paul, those fireworks are going off by the high school. I can hear those booms at my house almost 4 miles away. IGH has its own set by our high school. We citizens "put up with it" because we have been told it is better to have them in a controlled situation rather than fire them off ourselves. Same with this. I believe all precautions will be take to ensure safety. Is it foolproof? no, nothing is 100%. But to have so many interested parties on the side of this project who will do what they can to make safety a priority, I don't see there'd be any major issues. Go ahead and let it happen.
Jeff Roberts (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 06:46 PM
There is a good discussion happening in the IGH Facebook page about this. Check it out. http://www.facebook.com/InverGroveHeightsPatch
Dave Moline July 12, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I think that some clarity on the issues is important here. None of those opposed to the gun range is opposed to gun safety, just the fact that the range is tucked into a residential neighborhood where the kids run free in the adjoining prairie and woods. Many residences are well within the 1 mile range of a .22, and in fact, one residence is .29 miles from the range, right in the line of fire. The DNR owns 200 acres of land in IGH in a non-residential area and it has been proposed that the range be held there. This is a completely sensible approach and one all parties can support. We're all for gun safety, we just want to avoid the unthinkable - having a random shot hit a kid playing nearby. As to the eagles, what Mr Guiterrez of the DNR says is entirely true - the eagle nest is about 340 yards from the shooting range. However, they often perch and hunt right on the border of the range. All the opponents of the location are asking is that the city, the DNR and Mr Grannis be cognizant of the Federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which protects the eagles from being, among other things disturbed. The Act provides a wide range of what "disturbed" means, and anyone in violation of the act is subject to Criminal Prosecution and a $100,000 fine ($200,00 for an org.). All the opponents are asking is that the parties involved recognize the potential liability and act prudently when making their decision. Let's make the right decision, not just the quick decision.
Dave Moline July 12, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Hi Diane - while noise is an issue, the location in a residential area is the prime concern. The DNR has 200 acres of non-residential land in IGH and it has been proposed that the training area be held there. As far as I know, all opponents to the range would be fully supportive of having the range on the DNR owned land, and it seems like a very sensible alternative to which everyone can agree.
craig savard July 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM
The eagles and other wildlife will be just fine..I work for a construction outfit our shop is next to wetlands and woods they do not seem to be bothered at all by all the noise ,dump trucks ,loaders tail gates banging back up alarms on over 60 pieces of heavy equipment beeping.Education,safety, conservation we all come out ahead.
Kris July 13, 2012 at 11:40 PM
The USFW has standards for not disturbing nesting eagles. The intermittent noise should not be less than 1/2 mile unless the eagles show tolerance to the noise. The eagles at this location are VERY noise sensitive. It is in Mr. Grannis's best interest to do a Wildlife Study to ensure that the noise will not disturb the eagles. If they eagles move or leave their young unattended during the classes he could be subjected to the fines. The eagles are very sensitive to nest disturbances from April to mid-August. Some eagles do not mind noise, some do. It is an expensive fine that I do not think someone who is trying to establish a nature preserve would want to pay.
Kris July 13, 2012 at 11:49 PM
The most important issue in this is SAFETY. The proposed location is 0.29miles to the nearest house. There are private walking trails within 120 yards. There is a neighborhood with about 20 houses and a ton kids about 0.375 miles. And the adjacent land (69 yards away) is slated for housing development. ALL of these are in the direct line of firing. 0.22 caliber ammo can travel over a mile. This past year there have been 3 riffle ranges where the 0.22 caliber ammo hit houses or in 2 instances hit people (1 in his back yard and 1 golfing). Accidents happen- regardless of how careful and controlled the environment. People moved here WITHOUT the gun range- they have a right to be in their backyards and trail without worrying about getting hit by a bullet. The neighbors will not be notified when the shooting will take place- they will have to search websites and follow weather for "rain dates". What happens if there is a babysitter or visitor who doesn't know to do that and takes kids out to enjoy nature or their backyard one of those days... Gun safety is important and hopefully the DNR can find a suitable place that would not impact residents so greatly. There are other options in Dakota County. Let's help find a more appropriate place.
Mark J. Westpfahl July 15, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Kristine, Aurelia Ct. neighbor, biologist for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is full of contradictions in her arguments against the proposed DNR-sponsored gun safety program on the Darvan Acres property 1) "We moved here because of the beauty, serenity and wildlife. We did not move here because they allow shooting out our backdoor like they do in other neighborhoods." She then states: "They haven’t allowed shooting in Inver Grove since 1963" So where are the other neighborhoods that she is talking about? Obviously she is not referring to this community, nor the city limits of many other communities in the surrounding 7 county Metro area. 2) "I know it’s a controlled environment and only six times per year" But then she states: "I’m on those trails 4-5 times a week with my young kids. Am I going to have to worry about them being shot?" Three things strike me as odd. First, she knows that the program is only for 6 dates a year, yet she will be in fear 200-250 days a year as she walks the trails "4-5 times a week". Second, you have a responsibility as a parent to safeguard your children. If you are worried as stated ("Am I going to have to worry about them being shot?"), then be a responsible parent, and do not take your children on the path 6 days a year if you are a afraid of a stray bullet that will never hit you or your family anywhere, because safeguards and restrictions are in place. (cont.)
Mark J. Westpfahl July 15, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Third, what is Kristine doing walking the trails that exist on the property "4-5 times a week"? It is not public property, it is private property. Unless she has received permission directly from the owner of the property, she has no right to the access anyway. 3) Now we get to the property value concern. Kristine states that if the DNR-sponsored gun safety program on the Darvan Acres property is instituted, it is "going to decrease the value of our homes. It’s also going to decrease the value of our neighborhood." Is Kristine aware that one, property values in Inver Grove Heights have decreased dramatically since 2006, not because of DNR-sponsored gun safety programs, but because of a hole host of other reasons....increased property taxes, homestead tax credits going away, sub prime mortgage rates, local ordinances, county restrictions, state laws, etc. Second, it is widely known that protected land in the state of Minnesota has a positive effect on the land value of surrounding areas. As you can clearly see, I am very concerned by these reasons that Kristine has brought forward, as they are easily contradicted.
Mark J. Westpfahl July 15, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The issue of noise seems to be a large problem for many of the people who have attended the City Council meeting this past Monday, or who have sent letters/emails to the Mayor and the City Council. I think things need to be put into perspective a bit more, as some of the claims that have been made are a little outrageous and over the top. Lee Lindberg, owner of 101 acres in Marcott Lakes region complains that the sound of .22 caliber rifles will deter people from purchasing land on the undeveloped 41 plotted pieces of land. Lee states "five of which abut the property line (along the proposed site), a few yards away from the center of the firing range." This is a bit of an exaggeration. While the land does but up against the proposed site, it is not a few yards from the center of the range. As per the requirements set forth, the range must be "Shooting range a quarter-mile from any residence not on the property" Let's put this into perspective Lee. While I understand that you are claiming that the range *may* be close to some residences, your gross misrepresentation (to make a point about geographic proximity)of the distance should be noted. A few yards in 9 feet.However, a quarter-mile is 1,320 feet or 420 yards. This means that the range would be more than 4 football fields away from any possible residents. A quick look on map will show that there are 57 houses within a 4 football radius of the Simley High School Football Field.
Mark J. Westpfahl July 15, 2012 at 05:40 PM
But how can I make that assertion? Simple. The Decibel level of a .22 caliber rifle shot is 130dB. A lawn mower for instance, produces 90dB. If I am not mistaken, thousands of residents at any time in IGH can mow their lawn, producing unwanted noise at high levels, and many of them take place a lot closer than a quarter-mile, or the distance of four football fields. Why is this not a concern? Normal conversation produces 60dB, almost half of the dB levels of a .22 rifle. Traffic is estimated to be 80db, that is unless you have the beeping noises of city trucks backing up or collecting trash, or a semi on the highway, a snow plow scraping the ground, etc. As you can see, these activities produce the same amount of "noise pollution" if not much more. Would you suggest Lee, that we ban all of these activities, because they certainly take place on a much more regular basis than six times a year! If 41 plotted properties became residences within the city, I would be very concerned that Lee would experience hearing loss from all the additional noise from a truck without a muffler (90-100dB), cars honking (80-100dB) a motorcycle (110dB) or heaven forbid, children playing in the yard, laughing and sometime screaming or even a baby crying (120dB)! As you can see, the "not in my backyard" conversation does not always fit when you objectively take a look at the facts that are easily obtainable to anyone willing to take the blinders off and see the forest full of trees.
Mark J. Westpfahl July 15, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Dale, Arnold Ave. neighbor stated "The question here is not gun safety, it’s location. We talk about this as being a nature preserve in the future. A nature preserve to me is not someplace you go shoot and then build buildings and have parking lots." While the thought does sound like it has merit, one only needs to look at the National Park system that was established nearly 100 years ago (1916). While the goal is to protect wildlife, preserve scenery and limit development, the National Park Service also offers amenities to the public that some are often unaware of. Although most of us are ware, but the park system was designed to be a recreational habitat for humans as well. This does include the ability to hunt on land, and use firearms. As for the Minnesota DNR, one only needs to visit their website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/index.html and click on the tab "recreation" to see that Hunting & trapping and OHV riding in Minnesota are two of the many activities that the DNR encourages on their lands, within restrictions of course (the same sort of restrictions proposed by the DNR-sponsored gun safety program on the Darvan Acres property.
Mark J. Westpfahl July 15, 2012 at 05:41 PM
An Audobon Rd. neighbor stated "The main concern is safety, and the proximity of people and residences to where this is going to occur. While I understand accidents are rare, they do happen." Yes, this is why they are called "accidents" and not regular occurrences. Accidents happen every day. I live on the corner of 80th and Hwy 52. Everyday, I hear sirens screaming from the city police cars that come from the department less than two blocks away. I also hear and see the firetrucks and ambulances that come on the off ramp to 80th street on a daily basis. This is attributed to "accidents". Although they are common occurrences for the brave and dedicated people who don the uniforms, they are not common to the everyday resident of Inver Grove Heights. I would challenge you, unidentified neighbor on Audobon Rd. to look into how many gun related accidents the city of Inver Grove Heights has had over the past decade. I would then suggest to do due diligence to the topic, that you look at the comparable accident rate(s) at different/similar shooting ranges throughout the metro, that see a higher rate of activity than the six day proposed DNR-sponsored gun safety program on the Darvan Acres property. Provide the numbers and you just might have a legitimate argument. (Cont.)
Mark J. Westpfahl July 15, 2012 at 05:41 PM
(cont.) I am not sure we are ready to close all of the roads in Inver Grove Heights, because some people get in minor to serious accidents on the roads. My three children have all scraped their knees and elbows on the city sidewalk and on the city bike path near our house. I am not advocating that the city childproof the trails or sidewalks, or remove them all together because occasionally, on an off chance stroke of God's hand, that an accident occurs.
Kris July 15, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Well Mark maybe you are not understanding the problem. The distance from the shooting location to the trails is 120 yards. The DNR will not let the neighborhood know when these training sessions are going on. We will have to track it down. And if there are rain dates we will have to find that out and again track it down. I am not the only person that takes my kids on the trail- so I will have to make sure every time I have someone watching my kids that they know whether or not they are shooting on the trail.... The trails are part of my neighborhood. They are the main reason we purchased our house. Then there is the concern that many neighbors have that once we start bringing 200 kids a year and teach them to shoot, some will come back for "target" practice because "no one is there and will know about it". We know that is not the intention of the program, but it is a real possibility. More importantly are the houses that exist in the line of fire from the range. The closest house is 0.29 miles. There is a neighborhood with about 17 homes a little further on. 0.22 cal. riffles can shoot over a mile. All of these houses are within 1/2 a mile. They are the ones who should be most concerned.
Kris July 15, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Lee's land is 69 yards from the shooting range, in the direct line of fire. That land is slated for housing development.
craig savard July 16, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Very well put Mark.However some people just cant understand logic!

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