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Shooting range expansion questioned

By Staff | Nov 25, 2012

Residents living near an outdoor recreation and educational facility spoke against a request for a conditional use permit (CUP) at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Tom and Bob Loonan, the owners of the Loon Inn located in Lura Township near Easton, came to the Faribault County Planning Commission to request a CUP to add a building for classroom use.

However, the residents neighboring the facility expressed much concern over the activities going on at the Loon Inn.

“There is a lot more than educational process going on at this facility,”?Larry Swenson says.

Bob Loonan explains that they are not doing this for revenue but to give students the opportunity to get involved with outdoor activities.

“I think the best way to keep a kid out of trouble is to teach him how to hunt or fish and that’s all we’re trying to do here,”?he adds.

The neighbors disagree and feel that the safety of their families are in question.

“I think they are crazy for putting guns in disadvantaged children’s hands,”?Sharon Swenson says. “We have a concern of being wounded or even killed.”

The law however states that the Loon Inn visitors should not shoot if there is any neighbor within 500 feet.

“We are 925 feet away from any of our neighbors,”?Tom Loonan says. “That’s almost double the requirement. We want to respect our neighbors.”

One of the conditions stated by the board is that the owners must set up highly visible markers showing the 500-foot requirement.

“They shot directly toward our home,” Larry Swenson says. “They shouldn’t be teaching kids to do that.”

The Swensons told the board that they spoke to Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer Robert Geving in 2009 about putting up markers and the Loonans still haven’t set them up.

“I even volunteered to buy them the posts,”?Larry Swenson adds.

The neighbor to the west of the Loon Inn, Jay Juberian, also spoke to the board stating he is also concerned for the safety of his wife and children.

There were also members of the community who spoke in favor of this establishment, including Tom Warmka, a resident of the Easton area and a county commissioner.

“I get calls and letters about this establishment a lot,”?he says. “I don’t feel like they need a CUP. This board should be careful about regulating people doing good things for the community.”

A member of the local Pheasants Forever chapter agreed that this establishment shouldn’t be required to have a CUP.

“The point of this CUP?request is for the physical use of the land, not the education that is taking place,”?county attorney Troy Timmerman says.

Michele Stindtman of the Planning and Zoning office stated this establishment didn’t specifically fit into any past CUP?requests. The board, however, found it most comparable to that of a gun club which would be eligible for a CUP.

The conditions stated include; a review every two years, a maintenance fee, added vegetation to prevent pollution of the Maple River, septic and wells must meet standards and local, state and federal licenses be obtained.

The planning commission heard the staff report from Stindtman, then heard the applicants report. After that they opened the floor for public comments for residents to state whether they were in favor or against the requested CUP.

At this time, the Swensons presented the board with a DVD?of pictures they have collected regarding activities going on at the establishments along with a letter explaining to the board their concern with honoring the Loonans’ request for a CUP.

The board also received other letters regarding this issue that will need to be reviewed.

Timmerman suggested the board table this request in order to allow time to go over the additional information obtained at the public hearing.

“There has been a significant amount of pros and cons and you’ve been given a lot of stuff to read today,” he says. “I think we should take this under advisement.”

The planning commission voted to table the request in order to review the material and will schedule another meeting to discuss the issue again before they recommend the CUP?to the Faribault County Board of Commissioners.