A controversial gun club in Osseo will break ground in a few weeks after getting final city approval Monday night, hoping to open in time for this fall's hunting season.
The $3.3 million Osseo Gun Club divided the community because of its location two blocks from schools and drew dozens of Twin Cities gun owners to recent council meetings, arguing that the gun club would meet the needs of a growing group of gun owners and attract visitors to the northwestern suburb.
On Monday, the city agreed, voting on a developer's agreement, unanimously approved by the Economic Development Authority and a 3-1 vote at the City Council. It followed the split City Council 3-2 vote last month for the gun club's conditional use permit and was the conclusion to weeks of City Hall meetings for developer Chris Williamson.
"We've glad it's over," he said Tuesday.
Now, an empty parking lot will be turned into an 18,000-square-foot building housing a 20-lane indoor gun range, retail gun shop, gunsmithing space and gun safety classrooms, with the option to add a second-floor 20-lane shooting range in the future.
"It's going to be a nice addition," Mayor Duane Poppe said. "Development breeds development."
Already, he said, he's hearing of businesses wanting to expand as the result of the gun club's bringing more visitors to Osseo, a 2,400-resident suburb wedged between larger Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park. In the town that's less than one square mile, the site of the gun club is the largest vacant parcel in Osseo. The land, which used to be a senior center, was approved Monday by the City Council and EDA to be sold to Williamson.
Supporters of the project have come from across the Twin Cities, with nearly 100 people showing up for one of the meetings, mostly gun owners and business owners. The Minnesota Shooting Sports Association and MN NRA State Association also released a statement applauding Osseo for supporting the "state-of-the-art" shooting range.
But the move also drew critics.
Some residents and school leaders said it wasn't the right location, less than 500 feet from the junior and high schools. School district leaders didn't comment Tuesday on the city's approval of the project but said at past meetings that they were worried gun owners walking from the gun club with firearms could be mistaken as a threat to school safety, spurring lockdowns.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there are no state regulations limiting how close a shooting range can be from a school; that's up to local cities and counties.
"It's one of those lightning rod issues," Poppe said. "There are always going to be people on the opposite side of it."
Williamson, who has owned an online gun retail store with his wife for four years, said concerns were "nonissues" because the gun club isn't in view of the schools and will minimize any negative effect on neighboring residents.
"You hear the word 'guns,' and it's a four-letter word," he said. "We didn't think it would be as controversial as it was."