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Archive for Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Douglas County Commission and law enforcement in dispute over firing range

County: Fraternal Order of Police needs permit for facility

Area law enforcement officers are waiting for a judges ruling on whether they need a special permit to use an longtime firing range in rural Douglas County. Officers have been using the range for practice for 39 years.

August 19, 2009

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A Douglas County judge is deciding whether to rule in favor of the County Commission or the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter over a firing range at the FOP lodge southwest of Lawrence.

The FOP Lodge No. 2 filed the suit in 2007 intending to resolve a dispute about whether the 95-acre tract of land violates land-use policies because of a firing range there that has existed for decades.

“While the county could have insisted on a conditional-use permit back when any of these building permits were issued, it should be estopped from making that demand now, 30 years after the fact,” FOP attorney Mike Riling wrote in a recent court motion.

But county leaders said they have not found any documents to say the shooting range was ever legally permitted on the lodge property. The FOP’s property, 768 E. 661 Diagonal Road, is home to a training ground for Lawrence police, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and other area law enforcement agencies.

“To stop Douglas County from being able to enforce those requirements would be against justice and equity and interfere with the proper exercise of county functions,” attorney Chris Burger wrote in a court motion for the county.

Lawyers for the county and the FOP have both filed motions asking District Judge Peggy Kittel to rule in favor of their side prior to a trial.

The FOP filed the suit but is not seeking any monetary damages, but only a ruling in its favor so it won’t have to seek a conditional-use permit for the firing range. The county is asking the FOP to go through the formal process of seeking a permit for the firing range.

The dispute developed about three years ago when neighbors called the county and made a noise complaint about hearing gunshots at night near the lodge.

County officials said they then checked their records for the lodge property but didn’t find documents supporting special permits for a firing range. The FOP obtained the grounds in 1967, according to the lawsuit, and three years later it received a permit to construct a lodge at the site.

Riling has argued the county assured the FOP the firing range was proper for decades because sheriff’s officers train there. He has said records should exist to verify that and the FOP should not be punished by “sloppy record-keeping.”

But Burger has said it is the FOP’s failure for not following land-use regulations and must submit a plan to go through a proper approval process for the firing range.

The two sides argued their cases at an Aug. 4 hearing in Kittel’s court room. She is considering whether to rule in favor of one side or order a trial instead.

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 4 months ago

I say this is a no brainer. The cops have to learn to shoot somewhere. "The FOP’s property, 768 E. 661 Diagonal Road, is home to a training ground for Lawrence police, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and other are law enforcement agencies." If they are denied to use the FOP property then where will they train? I think people need to be taught that not everyone is going to jump every time they whine about something.

oldvet 5 years, 4 months ago

File for the special use permit...

Attend the meeting where the permit is voted upon...

Make note of those voting against the permit...

Distribute this (public) information to all law enforcement officers...

Remind officers of the importance of traffic laws regarding violations such as following too closely, rolling thru stop signs and exceeding the speed limit, even by 1 mph...

Write lots of tickets, always with a big smile...

skinny 5 years, 4 months ago

The FOP range has been there since the 1950's. When these people recently bought there property they knew the FOP range was there. Not only that, the FOP range is grandfathered in as it was there way before any of these people moved in or any of these new rules were put in place by the County Commissioners.

Get used to it, the FOP range isn’t going anywhere!!!

Jonathan Becker 5 years, 4 months ago

Maybe the FOP could practice in front of the County Commission Chambers on the 2nd floor of the old courthouse?

labmonkey 5 years, 4 months ago

Skinny-

Just because they had the land first, does not excuse them from being bad neighbors if what Smitty says is true.

I am not too fond of the FOP...they are the police union and solicit donations using telemarketers. Most other unions have to survive off of union dues.

BlackVelvet 5 years, 4 months ago

Skinny, the FOP Lodge was formed in 1956. They didn't purchase the property and build a range until the 70's.

Even though FOP's around the country are largely bargaining groups this one is not. It is purely a fraternal organization.

redfred 5 years, 4 months ago

The local lodge does NOT do telemarketing.

labmonkey 5 years, 4 months ago

redfred-

The local lodge does not, but the state lodge does.

BlackVelvet 5 years, 4 months ago

This property is not owned by the city or the county.It is owned by the 250+ individual members of the FOP. They allow the City and County to qualify their officers there. It is also, and more importantly, a place for the individual members to relax, have a picnic, wedding reception, camp out, etc. A place to get away from it all.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

It would truly be a travesty if the FOP were to be required to follow the law and apply for the proper permits just like everybody else. They are, after all, above the law.

JimmyJoeBob 5 years, 4 months ago

Let's just have the citizens of Lawrence and Douglas county pay for a range somewhere else. Also all you land owners in the county no more shooting on your property either. That means no more hunting in Douglas county.

MissinLawrence 5 years, 4 months ago

The FOP are not horrible neighbors. Granted there is a lot of shooting going on but, welcome to the country! My family has owned land/lived in the area for 100+ years and have had no trouble with the owners of the FOP lodge (maybe not so much the dgso that use it, but thats our fault...damn atvs).

The FOP is also were Hunter's Safety is held.

Jimmyjoebob: does that mean no more trap shooting? thats a monthly occurance at our family farm.

repaste 5 years, 4 months ago

they train there - the also get drunk and play with guns there. Don't believe me, ask around. Alcohol + guns, . . . "It is also, and more importantly, a place for the individual members to relax, have a picnic, wedding reception, camp out, etc." Maybe a permit would put some time of day restrictions in place to appease neighbors.

MeAndFannieLou 5 years, 4 months ago

"The dispute developed about three years ago when neighbors called the county and made a noise complaint about hearing gunshots at night near the lodge."

The prissy guy says:

I'm sure this nuance will be lost on Roads_collar, for whom any compromise at all means W.E.A.K.N.E.S.S., but it seems to me that the problem is due to the noise "at night," when regular folks are trying to sleep?

Maybe the FOP could limit their practice to daytime.

Practicality 5 years, 4 months ago

"Maybe the FOP could limit their practice to daytime."

The vast majority of shooting incidents for Law Enforcement Officers take place at night. That is why they have to practice at night. For anyone who has ever attempted to sight their weapon at night versus the daytime, you would understand how difficult it can be. Especially when you are holding a flashlight in one hand.

Douglas County will have to provide a shooting range somewhere else if this falls through, which will be at tax payer expense.

labmonkey 5 years, 4 months ago

MissinLawrence-

I grew up in the country and hunted. It is being a bad neighbor when you shoot knowing that pellets or bullets may land on another property. If you shoot a high-powered rifle, you can kill someone 2 miles away if you miss your target. That is why when deer hunting, you don't shoot at a deer that is in the same direction of a neighbor's house or a highway.

If they are shooting at night, that makes them even worse neighbors.

MeAndFannieLou 5 years, 4 months ago

Hmmmmmm......

I have a brother-in-law who worked for a state government (not Kansas) installing sound-proofing (mainly windows) in houses near airports, at government expense, for residents who wanted it. Maybe the county would be willing to do something like that?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

" If you shoot a high-powered rifle, you can kill someone 2 miles away if you miss your target. "

Several years ago, I was in a field east of Lawrence along the river while a friend checked some scientific experiments she was conducting. Next thing we knew, bullets were whizzing past us, but we couldn't see who the shooter was. We dropped to the ground and crawled to the car and got out of there. Turns out the neighbor about 1/2 mile away, whose house was concealed by trees, was doing target practice, but wasn't a very good shot.

Practicality 5 years, 4 months ago

question bozo,

did you hear the report of a weapon or did you hear an actual "whizzing" sound?

hipper_than_hip 5 years, 4 months ago

Doesn't the law enforcement center have an indoor pistol range in the basement? Mill Creek Gun Club is just 12 minutes down the road in DeSoto, and they have a law enforcement only range where the cops shoot full auto, plus a rifle range that goes out to 500 meters.

There's a ton of ranges open to law enforcement: Ft Leavenworth, Ft Riley, Whiteman AFB, Mill Creek, there's a law enforcement only range in Wamego, Capital City Gun Club in Topeka offers law enforcement only practice days, etc.

I'm not sure how trap shooting is a law enforcement skill, but they can shoot trap at Cedar Creek south of town, or at Powder Creek in Shawnee.

Where does the Highway Patrol practice? Can the police practice at the Highway Patrol facility?

Doesn't KU have an indoor pistol range for the ROTC? Can the police share the ROTC range?

There are plenty of places for the police and sheriff to shoot that are better suited than the FOP at Lone Star.

coolmom 5 years, 4 months ago

the memebers are not only males and i think it should be grandfathered in but checked for safety, upgrades on taxpayer expense.

imastinker 5 years, 4 months ago

Who needs permission to fire a gun on private property anyway?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

"question bozo,

did you hear the report of a weapon or did you hear an actual “whizzing” sound?"

Both, although the whizzing was what I first noticed. I found out later that it was a .22 rifle, so at that distance it was much less dangerous than larger caliber weapons might have been. His landlord told us that he had been told not to fire weapons on the property-- probably because the landlord farmed the land around it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

"probably because the landlord farmed the land around it."

Around the farmhouse, that is.

hipper_than_hip 5 years, 4 months ago

"Who needs permission to fire a gun on private property anyway?"

You don't need permission to fire a gun on private property, unless you invite 20 of your buddies to come over and shoot anytime they want, AND you charge them money. Then it changes from you & your buddies having fun to operating a business, and that is what conflicts with the zoning.

For those that know, is there any notification of the neighbors when there's going to be a night fire exercise at the FOP range?

MeAndFannieLou 5 years, 4 months ago

Good question, Hip! I'd also like to know if it's reasonable to expect someone to know that there is a firing range where they practice at night before buying a house in that area? I get tired of "Well, you knew when you moved there..." or "Well, you chose to live in the country..." or "Well, you chose to live in the middle of town..." as a reason to expect people to just meekly accept jarring explosions instead of addressing the problem.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 4 months ago

This is a pretty common tactic of people who wish to shut down ranges despite the fact that the range was there long before the neighbors.

MeAndFannieLou 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, glock, please tell us just what the neighbors are supposed to do - have their houses moved? Go without sleep? Maybe we should require developers and realtors to disclose such things as "there's a firing range two blocks down where they practice at night" when showing houses to prospective buyers? I agree that you shouldn't buy a house if you know that there's a problem nearby, but what if you don't know until after you've moved in? Sell and move out, sure, but then some other unsuspecting person moves in and the problem is still there.

MeAndFannieLou 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh, jeez, I've been talking to the dining room table again!

(in case you missed it, that's a reference to Barney Frank's response to a Town Hall terrorist)

BlackVelvet 5 years, 4 months ago

"they train there - the also get drunk and play with guns there. Don't believe me, ask around. Alcohol + guns, … " If you have any proof of this, please contact me, or the Douglas County Sheriff. We want to hear about it.

BlackVelvet 5 years, 4 months ago

"You don't need permission to fire a gun on private property, unless you invite 20 of your buddies to come over and shoot anytime they want, AND you charge them money. Then it changes from you & your buddies having fun to operating a business, and that is what conflicts with the zoning.

For those that know, is there any notification of the neighbors when there's going to be a night fire exercise at the FOP range?"

fwiw, we don't "charge them" money to shoot out there. and yes, we now notify neighbors if there will be night shooting going on.

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