Plans to build a shooting range for law enforcement training have hit a major roadblock in Howell Township.

The planning commission held a public hearing Tuesday night to hear comments from residents about a proposed text amendment that would allow shooting ranges to be a permitted use in Agricultural Residential Land (AR) Zoning. The applicant, Mike Paige, owns Oakland Tactical in Hartland and is trying to buy 300 acres off Burkhart Road for a range to be used for the training of first responders. Nearly 50 people turned out for the hearing in near unanimous disapproval.

Noise pollution was on many minds as several residents spoke about there already being some gunfire in the area and that a shooting range would exponentially multiply it. Stray bullets were also a worry to many residents. Other concerns that reappeared up were about the effects the range would have on property values, and what the lead from bullets on the ground would do to water quality. Paige claimed the range would be 100% suppressed fire to lower noise, have more than adequate buffer on all sides for safety, and have targets built over clay to protect the ground from lead.

Commissioner Pete Manwiller said there is a lot to consider, but they’d have to be deaf not to hear the resounding consensus of the public. Matthew Counts agreed, saying this was one of the few incidents where they’ve seen so much in-unison feedback from the community. Mark Freude said they are obligated to listen to every proposal, but they also take their citizen’s opinions seriously, and in this case it is pretty obviously against the amendment. A motion was made to postpone the decision to amend until next month, but it failed 3-2. Chairman Andrew Sloan was against it altogether, wanting to protect to character of the land and believing it would open too big of a door for change. He said he’s proud of the AR zoning district and is against redefining it. If the amendment were to go through, it would allow shooting ranges on all 130,000 acres of AR zoning. The commission made a second motion to recommend denying approval of the amendment to the township board, which passed 5-0.

Paige said he was trying to be transparent and was disappointed in the decision and the process. He said that if someone else bought property like that, that they could take a 100 of their friends out there shooting guns and no one could really say anything about it. Paige said he wasn’t able to give a full presentation of what they’re planning to do with the area and thus he thinks the decision was “kind of biased.” He said he will continue pursuing this dream in other ways, possibly by a proposed zoning change. Image courtesy of Mike Tipton. (MK)