Frustrated over years of gunshots ringing in their ears, Wayzata residents who live near an outdoor shooting range are demanding that it be shut down.
“There’s a gun range in the middle of a lot of residential homes, which doesn’t seem appropriate,” said Dean Thomson, who lives about a quarter mile away.
City leaders discussed the long-standing complaints this week and are trying to resolve the dispute between the neighbors and the Wayzata Country Club, which runs the range and says the gunshots are not as loud as the sound of traffic on nearby Hwy. 12.
The country club has had the trap/skeet shooting outdoor range since 1956. The sport has gained popularity in recent years; in Minnesota, it’s the fastest growing high school sport, with nearly 9,000 students participating in clay target shooting, more than those who play boys’ ice hockey.
While nearby residents said they support the sport and aren’t anti-gun, they said they’re annoyed by the sound of the shooting and want it limited — at the very least — to weekdays or one weekend day.
“You move out here for space, and peace and quiet,” said Beth Davis, who lives a half mile away from the country club. “To have this is really disappointing. We can’t sit outside and enjoy our yard. It feels unfair.”
She said she can also hear the gunshots from inside her home. Other neighbors have complained that the shots rattle pots and pans inside their homes, lowering property values and raising safety and environmental concerns about lead ammunition — which the country club says isn’t used — near a wetland.
Looking for a resolution
Country club officials, who didn’t return a message seeking comment for this story, have told residents that the range has been around since the city’s approval nearly 60 years ago and that shooting is limited to four hours on weekend afternoons between September and March.
Police Chief Michael Risvold said the city has received complaints from about a half dozen residents, but he said the range poses no threat to public safety. He added that the city has issued no sanctions or had issues with the country club, and so far, there are no violations police can enforce.
“We’d obviously like to resolve the issue for both sides,” he said.
Risvold told the City Council on Tuesday that both sides should meet to discuss a compromise. The city could then establish a new annual permit for the range with rules that police could enforce.
“We’re kind of conflicted as a council,” Mayor Ken Willcox said. “We recognize some people are upset by it, but it’s a legitimate activity.”
Statewide, there are more than 400 gun ranges, archery ranges and game preserves. In nearby Plymouth, housing developments have closed in around the Plymouth Gun Range, which opened in 1957. But the gun club makes sure that new homeowners know the range is there, said Jim Sable of the gun club, adding that he’s fielded no resident complaints.
In Wayzata, the police department did a sound study in 1999 and found that sound decibels at the shooting range were lower than the noise from highway traffic.
When complaints surfaced again this year, the city encouraged the two sides to meet. But an attorney representing some of the residents sent a letter in July to the country club demanding the gun range be shut down.
Freeway noise, Thomson said, differs from the frequent, sporadic sound of gunshots.
“The gunshots are distinct and loud,” he said.