CLINTON — Members of the LeRoy Rifle and Pistol Club will have to wait a little longer before knowing if they can build a new facility in DeWitt County.
The club has purchased 40 acres northwest of Wapella, near Waynesville, with plans to convert the property into a new gun range, but the proposal has run into opposition, which was expressed at Thursday's night's DeWitt County Board meeting.
The board voted unanimously to return the issue to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a review of whether there is adequate access to the site. There currently is no road into the property.
The lease on the 10-acre site the club now uses near LeRoy will expire at the end of the year.
In July, the DeWitt Regional Planning Commission unanimously recommended a special-use permit, and earlier this month, the ZBA also approved recommendation.
Several neighbors spoke against the proposal Thursday night, and Clinton attorney Phil Lamkin spoke on behalf of a client with property near the site.
“There is no easement, and there is no access,” he said. “Now, they might be able to get that in the future, but as of right now, this date this time, there is no access. So how can the board rule that there is adequate access when they have none?”
Club members attended the meeting in case the board had questions, but they did not speak.
The board limited the scope of the ZBA review to the access issue, but residents say there are other issues that also need to be addressed.
“We live adjacent to this property and we have nothing against guns,” neighbor Frances Smith told the board. “My husband has lived on this property his entire life.
"We farm there, but if they build a shooting range with berms and some buildings, then that will flood our farm ground and that is our livelihood,” Smith said.
Another neighbor, Dawn Funderberg, said she is worried about the decrease in property values.
“I purchased my home for $250,000, and to have this built there will significantly decrease our property values,” she said.
Ken Wilson, who lives about a quarter of a mile from the property, told the board the noise from events at the club would disrupt everyday life for neighbors.
“There is a private shooting range about 2 miles away, and I have been woken up at 8 a.m. from that noise,” he said. “This is much closer and they have events almost every weekend for about eight months out of the year.
"We live out there because we are addicted to peace and tranquility, and we are more deserving of having that peace and tranquility for the rest of our lives not to hear hundreds of gunshots every Saturday.”
According to its website, the private, not-for-profit gun club was founded in 1974 and has more than 250 members.
General range use is for members and their guests only. All guests must complete a release and waiver form when visiting the range.
Officials have said they hope to have the new range in partial operation by fall 2017.
The range would be similar to what the club has now and would include longer rifle target ranges of 300 yards or more and trap-shooting facilities.
Tim Dazey, a vice president with the club, previously said the club has a rigorous training program that is required of all members and a safety record free of any incidents.
“We have developed strong relationships with multiple law enforcement groups and youth programs, as well as provided the community an opportunity to safely participate in shooting sports at all levels,” he said.