LEONI TWP, MI (WLNS) – For more than 30-years, Leoni Township resident Joe Trolz, has used his 68 acres of land to privately shoot target practice with family and friends.
But for quite some time now, Trolz has tried to start a business called the “Kickin’ Brass Gun Range,” which has been met with strong opposition.
Wednesday night, the Leoni Township Planning Commission held a special public meeting to allow both sides to share their concerns.
The room was packed full of people, all with different opinions. They came to debate over whether Kickin’ Brass Gun Range in Jackson is properly operating its business.
Documents show that in April of 2015, Joe Trolz, the owner of the gun range, requested to re-zone his property from “suburban residential” to “agricultural.”
This means, the proposed use for the property is for farming.
This type of zoning does not allow a person to operate a gun range or other commercial enterprises without the proper zoning or conditional use permit.
This information is indicated in a letter that was sent to Joe Trolz, from the township attorney, Eric White, on June 17, 2016.
It’s a letter that also informs Trolz he has to immediately cease and desist the operation.
White goes on to say that he’s been instructed by the township to seek an injunction from the Jackson County Circuit Court if this continues.
At the Leoni Township Board meeting on Tuesday, September 13, the township board unanimously voted to seek an injunction.
When asked if one has been filed since then, the township attorney said no.
During tonight’s meeting, the room was divided. Some say the gun range is a noise issue. The range is located near Goose Lake. Many of those who have voiced their concerns, live on the lake.
Dennise and Kip Barber own Lone Oak Vineyards, which is located less than a mile away from the range, said the echo from the gunshots can be heard all over the lake, and it’s hurting business.
“We’re all about supporting safety, but at the end of the day we have rights to the home-lives that we’ve created for ourselves,” Barber said.
Others, like Joseph Rand, who teaches classes at the gun range, said it’s nothing but a gun safety service.
“The noise is not that loud,” Rand said. “There’s no way they can shut it down, but if it did get shut down there’s no place for these people to go to get proper training.”
Many people who spoke out Wednesday night, said Kickin’ Brass serves as a big draw to kids and adults and those who live out of town.
Opinions may be split, but the law, isn’t. At the end of the day, it all boils down to what the law is.
The commission heard from the township attorney to get an opinion on how to move forward and since–Leoni Township does not have a gun ordinance, White said it’ll come down to when Trolz started using his property as a gun-range under the Michigan’s Sports Shooting Range Act-MI Act 269 of 1989.
“What we were hoping, I think, was to find out whether that range was in compliant with the Sporting Shooting Range Act and I’m hoping that we’ll have a meeting with Mr. Trolz and the township and sort that out because if he is in compliant with that act on July 5, 1994, the analysis ends there and the range will continue,” White said.
White said if it didn’t exist on July 5, 1994, then Trolz could apply for a conditional use permit.
During that time, the public and township board would be able to get together and figure out a way to peacefully co-exist for those who live on the lake and the people who want to use the range.
Under Michigan law, the state does not have a say in the licensing or regulation in privately owned gun ranges.
As long as Joe Trolz is properly licensed for the guns he’s using, he has a right to shoot, and allow others to shoot on his property.
Under the Leoni Township Licensing Ordinance, no person may commence a business within the township without first obtaining a township license, which many are claiming Trolz does not have.
It also says the business owner is responsible to maintain accurate and updated application information.
The township attorney says there will be further investigation into when Trolz was using his property as a gun range, which will help move forward the issue.
In the meantime, the Planning Commission plans to come up with some kind of gun ordinance for the future of the Township.
Stay with 6 News as we continue to follow this developing story.