COURTLAND — An expanded shooting range in Courtland is one step closer to becoming a reality.
The former River Ridge Gun Club property had been used as a shotgun shooting preserve in the past. Its new owners hope to expand shooting options to allow for long-range rifle, short-range pistol and archery shooting — as well as continuing trap and sporting clay shooting.
Their plan is drawing opposition from nearby homeowners concerned about noise, safety and traffic.
After a lengthy discussion Tuesday, the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners OK’d the permit while requesting additional conditions be added before final approval in late August.
The permit for the expanded usage, therefore, won’t be issued until after the board’s Aug. 25 meeting. By then, the permit could include restrictions on alcohol sales to patrons before or during shooting, limits on the size of guns to .39-caliber or smaller, definitions on what types of ammunition are allowed, and approvals for muzzleloader usage.
The owners, Joe and Christine Michaletz of Michaletz Properties, indicated they didn’t intend to allow anything like .50-caliber guns or steel-jacket bullets anyway. They also said they want to be neighborly and are working to address the homeowners’ concerns.
“We really care about doing this project right,” Joe Michaletz told the board. “We’ve spent a lot of time and money working with engineers.”
Several homeowners either reiterated or voiced for the first time their opposition to the proposal at the meeting. New Ulm lawyer Roger Hippert, representing Wade and Veleda Cordes of Courtland, said his clients live within 500 feet of the proposed rifle range and would be negatively impacted by the expansion.
“This is the wrong place for an operation of this size,” he said. “It’s not going to be safe; it’s going to totally ruin the quality of life.”
The Courtland couple owned their property when the neighboring land was used for shotgun shooting. Veleda Cordes said the noise was bearable for the couple and their horses, but drawing more people to the range for rifle shooting is much different and would cause her horses to freak out.
“Even if we’re looking at 75 people (in a day) and 50 rounds per person, it’s almost 4,000 rounds,” she said.
Christine Michaletz responded by saying the projected volumes in the proposal are for heavier days, like when the range organizes a sporting clay shooting day. The Michaletzes stated they’re looking into noise mitigation options.
“We’ll be responsible for noise testing, and if we can’t keep the sound within compliant range, we understand the consequences of that,” she said.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would be tasked with enforcing noise violations. The county would refer noise complaints to the state agency, said Mandy Landkamer, the county’s director of property and public services.
The county Planning and Zoning Advisory Committee previously approved the permit, which the County Board then passed by a 3-2 vote Tuesday. County staff will work to include the additional conditions ahead of the board’s final vote on the permit in August.