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:
(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."