“The biggest update is that we’ve made an application for a special use permit,” said Steve Woiteshek, a member of the gun club's board.
Gun club officials had hoped the permit would be considered for approval at the Grand Haven Township Planning Commission meeting earlier this week. However, Township Manager Bill Cargo said he did not receive the site plan in time to prepare a report for the commissioners, thus the hearing would have to wait until the commission's next meeting, Oct. 21 — “assuming the site plan complies with zoning requirements,” Cargo said.
Read the site plan documents: Download the PDFs (Related Files) at the bottom of this story.
The club closed down its rifle and pistol ranges Sept. 29, 2011, after a construction worker was hit in the arm with a bullet while working in the driveway of a home in the Cutter Park subdivision, about a half-mile east of the gun club. Residents checked their houses after hearing about the incident, and found at least eight homes damaged by bullets, according to Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.
An investigation determined that officers from the Grand Valley State University Department of Public Safety were conducting a training exercise at the gun club that morning and those bullets had gotten past berms at the range.
No criminal charges were filed.
Gun club officials said at the time this would never have happened if the officers were complying with range rules.
The club immediately and indefinitely suspended all police training activities at the ranges. The entire facility was shut down for a week.
The skeet and trap shooting areas were soon reopened. They are further from the subdivision and the guns have much shorter ranges, explained Mark Welch, president of the gun club board, at a meeting that took place shortly after the incident.
Since that time, gun club officials have been working on a plan to improve the ranges so that no bullets would ever fly out of the area. Work began almost immediately to increase the height of the berms.
The club formed committees to research other facilities and come up with a plan that Woiteshek said would make the local gun club the gold standard of shooting ranges in the United States.
In early June, gun club representatives met with Grand Haven Township officials, and then had separate meetings with residents of Cutter Park and club members.
Models of a proposed baffle system were demonstrated, but Jeremey Wilder — a Cutter Park resident and president of its homeowner association — asked for reassurances that the improvements were going to be done right.
Wilder said earlier this week that he had received no communications from the gun club since the June meeting.
“They said they would invite us to see any proposal before it was submitted to the township, but that has not occurred,” he said. “They also did not release any documents that showed the results of the NRA inspection of their outdoor range.”
Wilder said the gun club had a summary of what they called the "important points" that they shared verbally, but they didn’t have a copy of that for the subdivision residents.
“Our position remains unchanged,” he said. “Any plans to open an outdoor range needs to be designed by professional range designers to make sure that residents of Cutter Park and surrounding neighborhoods will not be in any danger of injury or damage to property from bullets leaving the (gun club) property.”
Woiteshek said there is too much at risk not to do things correctly.
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.