CLINTON — A special-use permit for a proposed DeWitt County gun club could come before the DeWitt County Board next week, in what could be a showdown between club members and neighbors opposed to the plan.
The LeRoy Rifle and Pistol Club officials announced Monday night at the DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting that they have purchased additional land near the property, which will alleviate previous concerns about access.
“The club members will now have access from the road, and the issue of access has been muted by that purchase,” said Amy Rupiper, an attorney for the club.
The club purchased 40 acres northwest of Wapella in 2016 and announced plans to convert the property into a gun range and meeting place. The club is currently near LeRoy, but a lease on the property is due to expire soon.
Club members presented their plans to the county board in August 2016, but the board delayed a decision because of access concerns. The property was landlocked, and county officials said the club would need an easement through an adjoining property before approval. The special-use permit was sent back to the Zoning Board of Appeals with instructions to address that issue.
The club sued Funderberg for access, and DeWitt County Judge Gary Webber ruled the club is entitled to an easement, but only for personal or agricultural use, and not for business use. The two sides differ on the interpretation of the ruling. The gun club appealed, saying the judge was wrong in applying restrictions on the easement. That appeal is pending.
The zoning board of appeals previously recommended approval to the county board for the gun range, but on Monday, voted against approval since the original concern — the easement through Funderberg’s property — was still being litigated.
“The county board instructed us to resolve the access issue,” board member Dave Waters said. “The fact that this is still under litigation tells me that the issue is not resolved.”
Rupiper argued that because of the purchase of the new property, the issue of the easement on Funderberg’s property was no longer a concern.
Zoning board of appeals Chairman Andy Hedrick said that the purchase of the new property is not a matter for his board, and the only thing the board could vote on was a recommendation if the easement on Funderberg’s property was resolved. The board voted 4-1 against recommendation, but the matter will still go to the county board for a final decision.
Funderberg’s attorney, Joe Taylor, said his client will continue to fight the proposed club.
“These 40 acres should never have been purchased for this,” he said. “Anyone with any common sense would have taken an option on this and checked these things out. There are four $250,000 homes within 200 or 300 yards of this property. The zoning law said you can’t have a gun club within a mile of a home. What they are not telling you is that they don’t qualify.”
About 25 people attended the zoning board of appeals meeting, including several members of the club. The county board is scheduled to meet Oct. 16.