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April 2014

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Hearing Wednesday on Hartland Sportsmen's Club proposal to reopen

City of Delafield — A curfew, a police officer and a planner's memo will be important in Wednesday night's public hearing on a proposal to reopen the Hartland Sportsmans Club more than three years after the city revoked the gun club's operating permit for failing to meet safety standards.

Mayor Ed McAleer, who chairs Plan Commission meetings, said there is a possibility that more than 200 people may attend the hearing. He has asked that a police officer to be assigned to City Hall to assist with "crowd control."

McAleer said a television monitor with a broadcast of the hearing will be in the City Hall foyer in the event the crowd exceeds the legal capacity of the Common Council meeting room.

In addition, McAleer said he may impose a 10:30 p.m. limit on the public hearing to give the Plan Commission time to complete other business before an 11 or 11:30 p.m. curfew for the meeting. There has been an unofficial 11 p.m. curfew on Common Council and Plan Commission meetings for about a decade.

A memo from City Planner Roger Dupler, a consultant with Yaggy Colby and Associates, is among about 300 pages of documents provided to Plan Commission members that outline the permit application and describe new safety standards and precautions proposed at the club, along with letters and emails from residents and nonresidents supporting or opposing a new permit.

Pivotal issue

Dupler's memo addresses what could be a pivotal issue in the hearing.

State law prohibits municipalities from imposing zoning conditions, other than public safety requirements, on existing gun clubs.

However, Dupler argues that the Hartland Sportsmans Club is not an existing gun club and therefore its conditional-use permit application is subject to a wider range of conditions.

"This operation has been discontinued for more than 24 months and is no longer a valid operation or use. It should therefore be understood that the current petition is not afforded any luxury of an existing operational status and should be considered as a brand-new petition," Dupler said in the memo.

Therefore, according to Dupler, the commission must consider factors such as noise and light pollution, the preservation of privacy, the screening of parking areas and hours of operation, when considering whether the gun club's use of the land is compatibile with nearby neighborhoods and commercial districts.

In addition, Dupler has recommended the commission require new safety standards on all of the firing ranges rather than just those proposed in the permit.

Dupler said the commission should not grant the permit until the commission has "full confidence the safety features proposed ensure this operation will not endanger the community."

City officials have received 117 emails, along with a petition with 143 signatures, supporting the gun club.

Proponents say the club is an asset to the community because it provides a facility where gun safety courses can be taught, hunters can prepare their weapons for hunting seasons and gun enthusiasts can enjoy their hobby with a safely supervised firing range.

Opponents have argued the gun club is a nuisance with a bad safety record.

They say its activities have generated noise pollution and created public safety issues that interfere with nearby businesses and the quality of life of nearby residential neighborhoods. They say the club is an inappropriate use for about 35 acres of woodlands nestled between residential neighborhoods and commercial districts on the southeast edge of the city.

Permit revoked

The operating permit for the club was revoked in June 2010 after a city investigation that determined the club was not abiding by safety standards required in the permit.

The day after the city began the investigation, a pregnant woman was struck by stray bullet fired from a club firing range while she was having dinner at an outdoor table of nearby restaurant. Both mother and baby recovered from the incident.

Lawyers and engineers for the club say new safety procedures will be implemented, and shelters where guns are fired will be redesigned to prevent rounds from escaping the firing ranges.

Gun club lawyers have said they have "a different perspective" than Dupler on whether the city can consider factors other than public safety in determining whether to issue a new permit to the club,

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