A Kendall County zoning panel voted Monday, Aug. 27, to recommend against proposed changes to county rules regulating outdoor gun ranges.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-2 against the changes, with Chairman Randy Mohr and board members Scott Cherry, Cliff Fox and Tom LeCuyer voting no and Dick Thompson and Karen Clementi voting in favor of the changes.
A group of residents packed the board room and voiced objections to the changes.
Matt Asselmeier, the county's senior planner, explained that the County Board's Planning, Building and Zoning Committee initially brought the changes forward based on an outdoor shooting range that had been proposed on Church Road in unincorporated Lisbon Township in 2016. The developer of that proposed range later withdrew the project.
"After meeting with the existing gun club/ranges, the proposal evolved into its current version," Asselmeier wrote in an email.
Among the proposed changes is eliminating a requirement that a proposed gun range be at least 1,000 feet away from the property line of an existing school, day care, place of worship or airstrip. The changes would also eliminate a current rule that requires shooting ranges to be on properties of at least five acres in size.
Another change is to allow a "qualified person" approved by the range owner to supervise the range and enforce the rules, rather than the current rule that requires a national, state or NRA-certified supervisor at the range at all times when firing is taking place,
Access must now be controlled by a locked gated entrance. A proposed rule change would be to eliminate that and simply require a gated entrance with signs.
Resident Priscilla Gruber told the ZBA at Monday's meeting that the changes did not address the concerns of residents.
"The intention of the proposal was to address noise and safety issues, and to tighten outdoor gun range restrictions," she said.
Gruber referenced the lack of a 1,000-foot buffer from churches and schools as one of the many changes she was concerned about.
"How is a seven-day-per-week, many-hours-per-day, for-profit gun range desirable right next to a church or a school?" she said.
Gruber said the County Board's PBZ committee wants to approve or deny proposed gun ranges on a "case-by-case basis."
"This is inviting unpredictability, inconsistency and favors to be considered," she said. "That is government by men – or people – not government by rule of law, as I understand it."
Resident Mark Perle, who lives on Old Ridge Road, said he was concerned about private shooting ranges as well as commercial shooting ranges. Perle said some ranges charge for a service but then turn around and claim that they are a private range. He said the county should limit the number of people allowed to shoot at a private range.
"There's a tremendous amount of abuse going on," Perle said.
Perle said he was concerned about the change to the five-acre size rule and the 1,000-foot buffer rule. He said, for example, the county requires a paintball range to be located on a minimum of 20 acres. Perle said the county has minimum buffers for bars to be located away from churches and schools.
Perle also objected to references of the National Rifle Association handbook in the new regulations.
"The NRA is a private organization, and they're a good organization," he said. "I have no problem with the NRA – I'm an NRA member. But the reality is, if you keep referring to the NRA, and they change the rules, as they well can, anytime they want – maybe they make them easier, maybe they make them harder than what's in there now – you're ceding the county authority to a private organization, which in my mind makes no sense at all."
Dr. Lane Abrell, superintendent of Plainfield School District 202 and an Oswego resident, said he also had an issue with the elimination of the minimum parcel size and the 1,000-foot buffer away from schools.
"The growth is going to come again, eventually, and we may need to look at land acquisition for school sites," he said. "And commercial gun ranges popping up in areas, that limits maybe our purview. That could be for any industry, I suppose. But overall, I think the speakers before me have stated very well their concerns and I share many of those concerns, not only as a resident of Kendall County but also as a superintendent of schools."
Zach Barnwell of Plano, a member of the board of directors for the Barber Greene Hunting and Fishing Club in Oswego, said he heard the comments from the residents and that "many of which, I believe, are purely emotional responses to obviously something that's very serious."
Barnwell suggested that those concerned with noise write their lawmakers to support the legalization of suppressors in the state of Illinois.
"You'll make firearms considerably quieter," he said.
David Lombardo, a consultant with Safer USA, and president of the Aurora Sportsmen's Club in Waterman, said "a number of these" proposed changes came from him. Lombardo said some of the changes – such as the 1,000-foot buffer change and the elimination of the minimum property size, were to allow certain types of ranges depending on the situation.
"For instance, if you're going to be teaching Boy Scouts, and they're going to be shooting .22 caliber, you're going to have a tiny, small range and you're just doing it specifically to teach Boy Scouts or 4-H or whatever, they literally could not afford to do what [the proposed changes] said," Lombardo said. "They couldn't afford to have five acres or 10 acres and all those sorts of things. They're going to be shooting .22, it's gonna be a limited number of people. That's what I've been looking at."
Asselmeier said the townships will be notified of the ZBA's decision and township plan commissions will have 30 days to file an objection to the proposal.
The proposal will go before the County Board's PBZ Committee on Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m., Asselmeier said.