Archive for Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fraternal Order of Police loses lawsuit

A judge has ruled in favor of the Douglas County commission in regards to an issue involving a firing range used by police. The range has been used for the past 40 years but may violate zoning regulations.

September 4, 2010


A Douglas County judge has ruled in favor of the county commission on two main issues in a dispute with the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter.

The lawsuit centers on zoning issues and a firing range at the FOP lodge southwest of Lawrence.

District Judge Peggy Kittel has granted the county’s motion for summary judgment on two main issues, but part of the case still must be resolved, attorneys for each side said.

The county has asked FOP leaders to seek a conditional-use permit for the firing range on the FOP property, 768 E. 661 Diagonal Road, home to a training ground for Lawrence police, the Douglas County Sheriff’s office and other area law enforcement agencies.

But the FOP filed suit in 2007 over the 95-acre tract of land because the firing range has existed there for decades. FOP’s attorney has argued the county has assured the FOP the firing range was proper for decades because sheriff’s officers train there.

The FOP also argued the club is zoned as a “country club,” meaning it didn’t need a conditional-use permit for the firing range.

In her recent ruling, though, Kittel said the FOP’s use of the property does not come under a country club classification, and she said even if it did, the FOP would still need to obtain a permit to use firearms there.

“Procedural requirements are considered by courts to be safeguards against the arbitrary exercise of power,” Kittel wrote. “That is why everyone must follow the procedures as laid out in the zoning regulations.”

She also said the county’s zoning ordinances require a permit for a shooting range.

“While the FOP’s purpose in developing the subject property for law enforcement training is laudable, the same standards under the law apply to the FOP as it would a private citizen or any other organization,” Kittel wrote. “Likewise, the county may not ignore its own zoning ordinances and is duty bound to apply its rules equitably.”

Mike Riling, an attorney for the FOP, said the FOP filed the lawsuit not seeking any monetary damages but only some clarity from a judge.

“We had a legitimate dispute. We couldn’t come to an agreement, and so we sought the court’s ruling on it,” he said.

Attorneys have a meeting scheduled with Kittel later this month to discuss issues she has not yet ruled on. Riling said the FOP could either seek discussions with the county to work out the dispute or ask Kittel to rule on remaining issues.

Evan Ice, the Douglas County counselor, said the county has never filed a court order preventing the FOP from operating the firing range while the case is pending.

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

“The FOP and the county both would like to see this thing worked out in a way where everybody could have this be in everybody’s best interests,” Riling said. “We’re still hopeful that can happen.”


kansasmutt 7 years, 3 months ago

This has been a shooting range for 60 + years. It should be grandfathered in. The county had no zoning rules back when it was started. It is a very safe place to shoot, i have used it many times over the last 5 decades. Newbies who move into the area should have checked out the surounding area better before buying a home. This should not even be a court issue item.

somebodynew 7 years, 3 months ago

Somehow I am just sure this is tied to the Sevier case, the huge conspiracy of YH, and the "personnel matter" that City officials are sweeping under the rug. I just can't wait to read how.

@kansasmutt - I totally agree with you, and they thought that it was. Plus, I think everyone who moved in/bought property was told in advance about it (not sure tho). On the other side, there have been a few selected individuals using the range who have "pushed the limit" a time or two. But, I think they have made rule changes to address that part.

I hope before any of the "haters" get on here and scream for not allowing this to go on will be willing to fork over more of their tax dollars in the future. A simple fact is the State requires certain training (some involves shooting), and if the City and County can't use what they already have, they will have to build ($$$) something else, or travel ($$$) somewhere else to get the training.

You can't just shut it down and think that will be the end of it.

Paula Kissinger 7 years, 3 months ago

Thank you kansasmutt...this is just absurd.

“Procedural requirements are considered by courts to be safeguards against the arbitrary exercise of power,” Kittel wrote. “That is why everyone must follow the procedures as laid out in the zoning regulations.” one is attempting to exercise anything other than the ongoing training of LEO's and this has been going on since you were in diapers.

50YearResident 7 years, 3 months ago

This property (IMO) has the #1 pistol range in the nation for safety. Maybe a compromise for neighbors is to limit night time practice and events to one or two nights a week and ending early enough that it does not disrupt anyones sleep. That would be satisfactory for everyone.

JimmyJoeBob 7 years, 3 months ago

None of the so called neighbors better be out shooting firearms or fireworks or any other noise makers on their property with out expecting to being complained on.

Kat Christian 7 years, 3 months ago

First of all change always occur and just because something has been in operation for upteenth years doesn't justify having to make a change with the times. On the other hand the people who moved in near this land should have thought of this before buying so close to this sort of property use. I blame whoever did the zoning to allow homeowner property to be adjacent to a firing range without a buffer zone between properties in the first place. But alas its all about greed - developers are one of the greedest in our nation along with Corporate mongral (sp?). So the police either find another site away from homeowners property or they build a special inside facility like the folks in big cities would use to practice. Either way they need the training in firearms...that's a given. I wouldn't want officers on the beat not knowing anything about firearms use. I hope they find a solution to the satisfaction of everyone.

Joe Hyde 7 years, 3 months ago

If the complainants (neighbors) were bothered by the sound of gunshots at night..."near the lodge" then perhaps the gunfire was not actually coming from the lodge?

I've fished at Lone Star Lake hundreds of times and have heard the sounds of gunfire coming from pretty much all directions. From the tempo of gunfire, I'd have to say that a lot of rural folks who live in that area enjoy target shooting. Either that or they were lucky enough to get into big numbers of whatever game animal or game bird they were hunting.

Personally, I've always enjoyed hearing the sounds of gunfire generated by shoots at target ranges, whether they be police training ranges, trap/skeet/sporting clay ranges, rifle ranges, whatever. But in my case I've hunted since I was 7 years old, and growing up spent many a Sunday afternoon tagging along with my grandpa at a trap range that he went to religiously.

I agree with kansasmutt, that people who have only recently moved into the area surrounding the FOP Lodge should have been aware of the likelihood of hearing gunfire prior to their decision to purchase the property.

That said, it could be that the real estate agent who showed the property failed, whether accidentally or deliberately, to properly inform the buyer of the existence of the FOP Lodge's firing range and its associated gunfire noise. If that is the case I would think the buyer has just cause to take legal action against the realtor, not the FOP Lodge.

And although the news story doesn't specify, to me there is the question of what kind of night-time gunfire is at issue. If it's just the occasional shot, then I'd have to say the neighbors have a hyper-sensitivity problem. On the other hand, if the firing they heard was actually coming from the FOP Lodge and it involved volley fire by multiple shooters, or automatic weapons fire from M-16s or equivalent assault rifles, then the neighbors have a legitimate complaint and the FOP should restrict volley fire and automatic weapons practice to daylight hours only.

lily 7 years, 3 months ago

Stastically, a high percentage of Police-involved shootings occur at night. Perhaps we should allow our Police to practice shooting in dim-light conditions?? Nah, that would make entirely too much sense!

Joe Hyde 7 years, 3 months ago

Interesting point, lily. If the desire by FOP Lodge-using police shooters was (and still is) to mimic the night-time environmental conditions in which many shootings do occur, perhaps the solution is for the FOP Lodge to publicize in advance the dates/times during which they will conduct night-time shooting. That way at least the neighbors will have advance notice, and will not be surprised by the noise.

Other than shooting rats at night at the old Eudora city dump many years ago, I've never done any specific night-time shooting. I'm sure, though, that today's police range instructors have taken into account exactly the reality you allude to, and have put together combat courses specifically designed to duplicate various night encounters. I've never heard or read of such but I don't doubt courses like that do exist. Perhaps it was that sort of shooting that the officers out there were doing. I never thought about this possibility, so you might be right.

verity 7 years, 3 months ago

Maybe I'm missing something, but if the only problem is hearing gunshots at night, it seems easy enough to solve this by limiting the use at night.

MissinLawrence 7 years, 3 months ago

I have lived in area by the FOP Lodge for 23+ years and have never had issues with the FOP and their firing issues. This is what happens when individuals move from within the city limits to the rural areas. Some people/families do not understand the rural lifestyle.

While I agree the FOP should be grandfathered in, I am pleased to know that Judge Kittel stated that FOP needs to be treated like any other private citizen or othre organization, that no one is above the law. I wish more thought this way.

howie1 7 years, 3 months ago

Why would anyone complain about the FOP lodge anyway?? almost everyone in the county knows its out there and yes they do train out there.. Everyone saying on here limit the night-time use of the firing range... ok that would be the easy solution and when a criminal breaks into your home at night and holds you hostage how about the officers wait until daytime because noone wants to get woke up by the officers.. and the officers only train during the day time so they dont have the knowledge to work at night. Also, if you move out to the country and dont want to hear gunfire then you should have kept your city folk butt in town and leave everyone else alone.. I think the FOP should put up a sign stating: Our complaint dept. is currently under construction.. Our work happens at all hours of the night not just during the day, due to the complaints of the city folk, we are unable to finish the construction of the complaint dept., and possibly never finish the project so have a nice day : )

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 7 years, 3 months ago

Not surprising. A similar situation occurred in Shawnee County. After using a range built in an old closed county dump for years, homes were built near it. The neighbors started complaining about the gunfire. It was determined that no conditional use permit had ever been obtained for the range. The county commission directed that we stop using it. We had to "borrow" other ranges while a new one was designed and built. Sheriff Barta and his staff found a new location, got all the necessary permits, and built a state of the art range and training facility. They actually did us a favor by complaining or we would still be in the dump. The opening of the new range is this month. I hope our local FOP is able to do something similar, if all the court battles fail.Thank you, Lynn

somebodynew 7 years, 3 months ago

Lynn - while you are correct a truly modern and up to date range would be nice, how much did all that cost??? Keep in mind, the FOP owns this one and doesn't charge money for the City, County, and others to use it. If a new one gets built, it is going to cost $$$$$$ and that will come from the taxpayers.

kansasredlegs 7 years, 3 months ago

Let's see, Law Enforcement and County have to play by the same rules as every other private property owner, uh? Now, that's a first. Seems fair to me. FOP, get your permit, which is assured, and don't violate its conditions and everything will be okay. Stop crying and following procedure just like every other property owner.

BlackVelvet 7 years, 3 months ago

I heard that when the County was actually helping the FOP build their range, they told them they did not need a permit. So those who think the FOP is not playing "by the rules" perhaps you don't know the whole story?

kansasmutt 7 years, 3 months ago

The shooting range was in use wayyy before the land was finaly titled to the FOP. I think it was first used for a range in the late 50s. I guess if the city wants to spend a million dollars to build a new state of the art complex, so be it and spend more tax money you do not have. This politicly corectness crap is about a bunch of BS anymore. Might be cheaper to have the FOP buy out the dumbass who is compaining. Move him to Cali , sounds like he will fit in perfect with those stupid ignorant Cali type.

equalaccessprivacy 7 years, 3 months ago

“Procedural requirements are considered by courts to be safeguards against the arbitrary exercise of power,” Kittel wrote. “That is why everyone must follow the procedures as laid out in the zoning regulations.”

Sure wish Judge Kittel and the corrupt Douglas County DAs could remember above before they accept cases rife with conflict-of-interest from KU where the university has failed to follow legally mandated internal due -process procedures yet still have hypocritically decided with the complicity of the local southern-justice BS legal system to smear an innocent defendent with criminal charges for protesting this. Selective prosecution all the way!

KU cops are corruptly in the pockets of unprincipled KU-Lawrence offiicials and do not even bother investigating charges before filing them, and the dishonorable KU-grad DAs and crony-ridden Douglas County criminal injustice system buy into this. It's as despicable as that vat of manure in the Magic Christian.

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