With neighboring property owners voicing many of their concerns at Thursday night's meeting of the Putnam County Advisory Planning Commission, the petitioner asked that the board table the request and give 60 days to address the questions and concerns.
The board obliged, voting 5-0 to table the request until October.
The planning commission is charged not with deciding whether the club can exist, but with how the property should be zoned. The land, 130 acres northwest of the intersection of West Walnut Street (CR 75S) and CR 850W, is currently zoned as agricultural 1, which would not allow for the proposed use.
The petitioners, Deb and Robert Cheek, are requesting it be rezoned to agricultural 2, which would allow for the club.
Before the meeting, planning commission president Nancy Wells requested the crowd of around 100 keep the discussion cordial. The board normally meets at the courthouse annex, but moved the meeting to Harris Hall at the fairgrounds to accommodate the anticipated crowd.
"We want to make sure we keep the meeting and all comments professional," Wells said. "I know it's very emotional, but please try to respect those who speak."
The discussion opened with Deb Cheek, who said one of the main reasons for opening the club is to promote firearm safety. She and her husband have owned a gun shop in Plainfield for more than 20 years, and have observed lots of safety issues.
She indicated the plans are for the range to meet or exceed all prescribed National Rifle Association (NRA) guidelines for safety.
"I can guarantee everybody's safety," Cheek said. "You're not going to be driving by and get hit by a bullet. You're going to be safe in your back yard."
She added that the neighbors' concerns about sound are legitimate, and the sound of the range cannot be eliminated. She said there would be plans in place, though, to limit the sound as much as possible.
The Cheeks already own the property and plan to live on it regardless of the outcome of the county's decision. She said they are not trying to be at odds with their new neighbors.
"I didn't come out here to make enemies," she said.
Greencastle attorney Darrell Felling is representing the Cheeks and said they welcome questions from the neighbors and encourage dialogue about the proposal.
"Deb and her husband would like to hear your questions," he said. "We would like to hear every single one."
And questions there were. Around a dozen different neighbors spoke to the board and petitioners, expressing their concerns. These represented the 220 people of Madison and Greencastle townships, as well as nearby Parke County, who signed a petition against allowing the club.
There were questions of safety, noise, quality of life, property values, environmental issues, traffic, effects on livestock, effects on wildlife, liability and personal privacy.
David Sims, who made the first comments for the opposition, said he had no problem with guns, just with the location of this proposal.
"This is not about not allowing guns; it's about keeping a shooting range out of our back yard," he said.
Of all the questions, the one with the potentially furthest-reaching effects is that of contaminated drinking water. Residents questioned if bullets entering the berms at the end of shooting ranges would eventually bring poisons into the ground water.
"Will we have to deal with lead and arsenic in our water table?" Sims asked.
Paul Thomsen added that there are ways, although they are expensive, to basically make a shooting range "green."
"It's our drinking water that's going to get contaminated. Are you trying to cut this short because of cost, at our expense?" he asked.
Many of the questions, though, revolved around noise. Residents said the noise would affect livestock, wildlife and the tranquility of the country setting.
Kent Brattain raises show hogs on adjoining property. His concern is how the frequent sound of gunfire might affect his expensive animals.
"Who's going to pay for the disruption of my business?" Brattain said.
Kace Huber owns 30 nearby acres used as a wildlife preserve.
"The sound of gunfire brings a sense of fear to all living things," she said.
Neighbors also don't want the discomfort or change in tranquility for their own sake.
Bill Hatfield directed his question at the board.
"How many of you would like to wake up every day to gunfire?" he said.
Wayne Howery, a retired Indianapolis Police Officer, said the club would disrupt the tranquility he and his wife have found since moving to Putnam County.
"When I retired from Indianapolis, my first thought was to get the hell out of Dodge," he said. "If I wanted to hear a bunch of gunfire, I'd just move back to Indy."
Given the volume of concerns neighbors brought forward, Felling and his clients simply asked for more time.
The board will address the question again in October or November.