Deciding vote on Inver Grove Heights gun practice site coming

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2012 - 6:01 PM

Vance Grannis Jr. asked Inver Grove Heights for permission to use 50 acres for rifle training.

Strenuous resident opposition has formed against allowing rifle practice for firearms safety training on a swath of land in Inver Grove Heights.

Homeowners who live near the proposed training site worry that noise from the shooting would disturb them and bald eagles nesting nearby.

"We can hear the Rosemount shooting range, which is over three miles away; we definitely do not need another shooting range at just over a quarter mile away from our home," wrote Dale and Peggy Suckstorff in a letter to the city.

The City Council is scheduled to decide the matter Aug. 13.

The "beautiful pastoral world" of woods, rolling hills and lakes near this property is "why we pay property taxes on acres of land instead of a city lot," the Suckstorffs said. "A shooting range for whatever 'good' reason is a disturbing departure from the reasons we all live in this area."

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 state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Firearms safety training is required by the state for anyone seeking a hunting license. Demand for the training 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.

The supervised practice would be limited to six times a year on the Grannis property.

The DNR has endorsed the location as a safe, convenient place for students to take practice shots after finishing the written part of the class.

The Inver Grove Heights chief of police ruled the proposed setup safe. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would be unlikely that occasional shooting would disturb bald eagles nesting a quarter mile away. Disturbance permits are required for activities within an eighth of a mile of nesting eagles.

After a long night of testimony on the matter July 9, Mayor George Tourville didn't seem sold on the idea. "We could have the DNR do this on land they already own," Tourville said.

The DNR owns more than 200 acres on the Mississippi River in Inver Grove Heights, "but I don't think they want to" open that land to the classes, Tourville said. "This is a placement in a neighborhood. Gun training is important, but I think we could do gun training in other locations."

The land the DNR owns in Inver Grove Heights is a scientific and natural area, prohibiting its use for firearms training, said Lt. Alex Gutierrez of the DNR's division of enforcement. He said the mayor is miscasting the DNR's role in the matter because the DNR has endorsed the Grannis location. But it's the landowner, not the DNR, seeking the city permit.

"We are not seeking to put the program in Inver Grove Heights," Gutierrez said. "We don't go out and seek landowners that have large acres and say 'Hey, do you want to host this program?' Yes, we would like it there because there is a demand in the metro area."

Gutierrez said noise readings taken a mile from shots fired at the site during a test never exceeded 62 decibels. Normal conversation between two people standing three feet apart is 60 to 67 decibels, he said.

"You still hear the noise. It's not that it isn't heard, it's just that it isn't extremely loud as some people were concerned with."

If the city opens the land for the training, Gutierrez said he would host an instructor clinic there to train volunteers to conduct the class in Inver Grove Heights. "I would hope to get at least one class for youths completed this year."

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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