CLINTON — The DeWitt County Board will consider, for a second time, a special-use permit for a controversial LeRoy Rifle and Pistol Club facility near Waynesville.
The county’s Zoning Board of Appeals heard nearly 2½ hours of testimony from both sides Monday night prior to a 4-2 vote that sent its recommendation to the county board to approve building a gun range and meeting center on 40 acres northwest of Wapella near Waynesville.
The county board could vote May 24 on the plan to allow the club to build a meeting center and a gun range on the 40-acre property northwest of Wapella near Waynesville.
“The fight isn't over,” said Dawn Funderberg, whose home borders the property, at the meeting. “We will fight just as hard at the County Board.”
Funderberg has argued that the property values on her home will drop, adding, “Also, our quality of life and enjoyment of our property will suffer.”
She also said she was worried about the noise coming from a gun club.
Club spokesman Dan Rawlings said property values are not being substantially affected near the existing club site near LeRoy.
"In fact, we see trends where property values increase near the range," he said.
Rawlings said the club also is looking for ways to control noise levels during club activities.
"We have set a goal to average 87 decibels about 85 percent of the time," he said. "That is equivalent to a lawnmower, farm equipment, and that is the goal we feel we need to be."
ZBA Chairman Andy Hedrick voted against the recommendation and reminded Rawlings that most of the property was in a flood plain.
"We cannot issue a permit to build in the flood plain," he said.
Rawlings said he understood dirt could not be moved in or out of the flood plain, and any construction would be away from the flood plain, in accordance with regulations from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Amy Rupiper, a lawyer for the club, said the current ordinance allows for permits to be issued in the flood plain.
"The only issue for this board is whether or not it meets the standards for the permit, and the application meets those standards," she said. "The flood plain (issues) will be worked out later."
Last month, the DeWitt County Regional Planning Commission voted to recommend the special-use permit for the project after learning a long-standing access issue had been solved.
Previously, the county board returned the special-use permit application to the Zoning Board of Appeals because there was no access to the property. When the club bought the site about 1½ years ago, the only access to it was an easement through Funderberg’s property, and she refused to extend the previous easement to the new owner.
After a court battle over the easement in which the club prevailed, the club purchased an adjacent acre that would allow club members full access. The additional acreage is part of the new permit request.
The commission recommended a special provision that nothing over a .22-caliber gun would be fired until a noise mitigation plan takes effect.
The private, not-for-profit club, which was founded in 1974, has more than 250 members. Its lease is expiring on its property near LeRoy.
Ken Wilson, who also has property that borders the proposed club, said he will keep fighting against the plan.
“I am a retired correctional officer and I dealt with a high level of tension for 30 years of my life,” he said. “The only refuge I had to halfway keep my sanity for 30 years was the 40 acres that I could come home to and enjoy some peace and quiet or go to my timber and unwind.
"Now, to go through that hell all over again. I have been retired for 10 years and I have time for peace and tranquility and I am supposed to give it up because some people from 25 miles away want to come out and shoot the hell out of my area every day.
"What are we supposed to do? Stand back and let this happen?”