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Plans for new gun club remain in limbo

Friday, August 13, 2010

Around 100 people gathered at Harris Hall for the Putnam County Advisory Planning Commission meeting Thursday evening. The commission decided to table a request on how to zone the property for a proposed gun club at the intersection of West Walnut Street and CR 850W. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN
GREENCASTLE -- The question of whether a gun club will open in western Madison Township remains on hold until at least October.

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.

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-- Posted by THE BUGS on Fri, Aug 13, 2010, at 7:05 AM

Just the danger of lead pollution alone should be enough to stop this project. The website noflac.org lists all the dangers of lead contamination at gun ranges. WE THE PEOPLE of our lovely Putnam County had best come together and take a stand against this threat to our health and property values or we run the risk of having many of these " GUN CLUBS " doting the county!

Once allowed at the proposed site it would be much easier to allow rezoning of future sites.

Please ask yourself this question, WOULD I WANT ONE OF THESE " GUN CLUBS " NEXT TO MY PROPERTY?

-- Posted by all-in! on Fri, Aug 13, 2010, at 10:29 AM

In regards to request for gun club in madison county. The residents of properties for at least 1/2 mi to a mile will be greatly affected by noise among other things, especially after it is established & they start having skeet shooting. If you want to get a real feel of what it would be like just drive down 231 south of hwy 40 to county road 700 south which only goes east,and go approx. one & a half miles east to the curve in the road & on your left will be the Cloverdale Cons, Club. Just go down on most Sat.nights around 10 p.m. & you will get a real feel for noise. The club owners % people who use it regularly don't live any where near ,but will certainly give you a smart a@# answer if you complain, sometimes it goes on until 1a.m. & county has no ordinance against late night shooting. I was born 1/4mi. east of it & it has gotten progressively over the years. Fight your a@# off against it. If the Cheeks want to contineu to make a living then build their house on the property and keep their gun store open until they can afford to fully retire. thank you

-- Posted by wcpeanut on Fri, Aug 13, 2010, at 12:23 PM

People are actually disturbed if they think there is a REAL issue with ground water contamination from the the berms at a shooting range. You may have issue with noise. I would suggest a schedule and or time limit, so many night shoots a year etc.

-- Posted by hardtobelieve on Fri, Aug 13, 2010, at 2:55 PM

"The sound of gunfire brings a sense of fear to all living things," she said.

Of course this statement was made after the speaker interviewed ALL living things, right? Give me a break. It is about the GUN, whether you opponents of the range admit or not.

-- Posted by exhoosier2 on Mon, Aug 16, 2010, at 8:04 AM

This is very interesting. I am very familiar with this area. I grew up a few miles from where this property is located. I am having a very hard time understanding the argument regarding the "Ground Water". Growing up, we avoided the ground water due to the fact of all the chemicals being dumped in the fields year after year. It is quite obvious the water table has a chemical built up in it that is already unsafe to drink. But regardless, there are steps that can be taken to prevent runoff.

I can understand the noise worry. As I recall though, especially around deer season, gun fire is a very normal sound for this rural part of the county. Noise ordinances could be put into place to minimize disturbances during morning and evening hours, just like there is suppose to be during hunting seasons.

As a current gun club member, our club has shooting tubes in place on our ranges. These were put into place to help reduce the amount of noise that echoes through the wilderness, and they do work very well.

-- Posted by Gcatlenative on Mon, Aug 23, 2010, at 3:29 PM

This range represents a great opportunity for Putnam county - the Cheeks are dedicated to putting together a top-notch facility and running it in a professional manner. This range could attract competitive shooters from across the state, as well as from surrounding states. When these people come to the area, they are bringing with them money which will be spent at local businesses, which in turn boosts the local economy. Even if it's just youth coming out to participate in safety programs, they still have to eat - and that money goes directly into the local economy.

Regarding the comments about the ground water - this is a case of rather selective concerns! The area is largely farmland, which is continually coated with a variety of chemicals, and the article references a nearby hog farm! Hardly groundwater friendly! At the price of lead these days, the berms will probably be mined on a regular basis (as are other ranges) to retrieve the lead for re-use. It's just to valuable too let it lie there.

Regarding the hog farm, I grew up in a farming community just north (Montgomery county). Admittedly, I never dealt with championship hogs, but the hogs I am familiar with seemed to be pretty much oblivious to anything except feeding time.

I appreciate the IMMEDIATE neighbors concerns regarding noise - that can easily be addressed with reasonable compromises on hours of operation. Anyone not withing one half mile of the proposed firing line really has no grounds for compliant - unless you also propose banning Harleys from all county roads, as the average bike passing has a much higher SPL (sound pressure level) than small arms ammunition at a distance of one hundred yards.

As for Kace - personally the sound of gunfire from a safe, well regulated range makes me feel secure in knowing that my friends and neighbors are capable of defending themselves against any threats to themselves or their families.

Mr. Hatfield and "all-in," I'd be happy to wake up next to this range. If you happen to own adjoining property, let me know - my kids and I are tired of having to drive so far to go shooting (and unfortunately for now, this range will still be a long drive for us).

-- Posted by Jetpilot on Wed, Sep 15, 2010, at 11:10 PM

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