Student hunters looking to complete their state firearms safety training may soon be able to practice shooting a rifle in Inver Grove Heights.

The city has given initial approval to supervised .22-caliber rifle practice on 50 acres of open land on an estate in town, but questions remain about how loud the training would be for neighbors.

City Council members are awaiting the results of a sound demonstration on the site before a second vote on July 9 that would confirm the proposal.

Vance Grannis Jr., a past mayor of the city, whose family owns the 50 acres south of Hwy. 55 and west of Barnes Avenue, has asked for city permission to open the property to firearms safety training classes sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources.

That 50 acres is next to 40 more acres that Grannis and his wife own and hope to someday turn into a nature preserve and outdoor education center under the auspices of Dakota County.

Grannis said it was premature to comment on plans for the 40 acres. He said he is not a hunter but endorses gun safety and when he was asked by the West End Gun Club and the DNR to allow the family land to be used for firearms safety training, "I said yes."

His son, Vance (Chip) Grannis III, who is a member of the City Council, excused himself from voting on the issue.

Promoting safety

Firearms safety training is required by the state for anyone seeking a hunting license. Demand has grown since the state started offering the written part online three years ago. Students in the metro area sometimes have trouble finding a shooting range where they can complete the required 15 rounds of shooting practice with a .22-caliber rifle.

Because the city zoning ordinance has prohibited outdoor shooting ranges since 1965, the city staff recommended that the council approve the rifle practice as an interim use that could be phased out if problems arise.

The Planning Commission, however, recommended that it be given permanent approval.

The City Council will decide on that point July 9.

As proposed, shooting would occur there six Saturdays a year under strict supervision by instructors. Each class would be expected to leave the land looking undisturbed.

Lt. Alex Gutierrez of the DNR said the agency endorses the spot as a safe location. Students would shoot toward targets in front of a natural earth berm, he said. "It couldn't be safer because we're shooting into a hill."

Because the land is home to the Marcott Chain of three lakes and open fields, all field training with the firearms could be done there. That would include shoot-don't shoot scenarios, walking through a field with a rifle, and getting in and out of a boat with a firearm.

"The convenience of this property is that everything can be done right there," Gutierrez said.

In some cases, the field day programs take place on church properties and then the class drives to a gun range to do the shooting practice, he said.

Some residents are concerned about hearing noise from shooting on the Grannis property.

Gutierrez said a .22-caliber rifle is not as loud as higher-caliber rifles. To let neighbors hear the sound, he planned to bring in DNR officers to shoot the guns at the site on Saturday.

Neighbors were to be alerted so they could listen. Gutierrez said he intended to take decibel readings of the sound at the nearest home, about a third of a mile from the practice site.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287