The give-and-take about whether the Minocqua Gun Club needs a conditional use permit to construct a shooting range on its property is turning out to be one of the most interesting, and perhaps illuminating land-use cases in quite some time.
As our story today reports, the club wants to construct a rifle range on a second adjacent parcel it owns into which some shooting-range activities from the other parcel extend. State law restricts limits on the operations of existing shooting ranges, including their expansion, so that fact should settle the matter right there.
The Oneida County Zoning Department and Minocqua town Chairman Mark Hartzheim contest that fact, though – they disagree that shooting-range activities are taking place on the second parcel and call a range there a new use – and the considerations flowing from that opinion expose the very political nature of what is happening.
Essentially, we have a town chairman, a neighboring property owner, and a bureaucrat trying to take away a statutorily defined land-use right of another property owner, and to undermine constitutional principles along the way.
Mr. Hartzheim, would have everyone believe the gun club needs a conditional use permit for the club to expand at its current location, despite a 2010 law giving existing shooting ranges an unconditional right to expand.
The town chairman is welcome to his opinion, of course. Still, we find it interesting that, after advising the gun club of that opinion, and hearing that the county could “go either way,” he called the county to try and muscle them into his point of view.
Mr. Hartzheim says he believes a CUP is in the town’s best interest, not just one group’s, but we wonder what group Mr. Hartzheim’s opinion serves. It would seem the best interests of the town should align with private property rights and the U.S. Constitution.
That brings us to the bureaucrat. Urged on by the town chairman, and probably by the county corporation counsel and others, zoning director Karl Jennrich proceeded to create a statutory definition of ‘location’ out of thin air, despite multiple contradictions of his definition in state statutes, and to ignore the express language of the statute giving existing shooting ranges the right to expand.
There has never been any signal of intention by the gun club to use the second parcel for any other use than shooting range and related activities – the reality is quite the opposite – and Mr. Jennrich creates a technicality (the bureaucrat’s favorite tool) to try and create a way around state law.
Another way to say it: A way to create more regulation of private property.
It is a blatant and bald-faced attempt to convert a statutorily guaranteed land use into a conditional land use, which is unacceptable and must be challenged. What elected officials giveth, bureaucrats should not be able to take away.
Conditional uses give special interests, whether commercial or political, a tool by which to force others to live life the way they wish them to. Conditional uses are also one step away from being prohibited uses and nonconforming uses, slated for disappearance.
Conditional use permits are intended to provide flexibility within a zoning district, to help property owners out, but over the years they have been misused. Conditional uses in zoning ordinances have proliferated, when they should be kept to a minimum – those special exceptions a particular
community might need. But when a special exception becomes a laundry list, it isn’t
What it becomes is a political instrument, and that is what is occurring here. It is an attempt to favor one private property over another, to give one property owner operational authority over another, and to favor a new enterprise over a long-standing community institution, an institution that gives the community a place to practice and enjoy their Second Amendment rights.
What’s more, the gun club’s plans are intended to accommodate that constitutional right even more so, all the while enhancing public safety. Mr. Hartzheim should welcome that in the public interest, and so should Mr. Jennrich.
The Zip Line is certainly welcome in Minocqua and should enjoy its own property rights. It can do so without infringing on the property rights of its neighbor.
Everybody knows the Minocqua Gun Club comprises a single location and a single operation with only one intention, to provide a sport shooting range to the community. This is both a property rights and a gun rights issue.
The zoning department should drop this silly quest, and the gun club should take this matter to court if necessary.
Beyond that, voters should take into consideration what interests Mr. Hartzheim serves, and demand where the rest of the town board stands as well. We need to know who else would like to see the demeaning of a entity serving the community since 1958.