AVON — While the Planning Commission’s discussion regarding gun ranges was tabled Wednesday night, the topic still came up, after public comments from several Avon Lake residents.
Avon Planning Commission was originally scheduled to discuss possible changes to the city’s current legislation regarding ranges, following a moratorium passed by City Council July 30. The moratorium was passed to allow the commission and Council time to look at the current legislation and clarify where a public gun range could be located in Avon. The commission’s discussion was pushed to next month’s meeting, to allow Pam Fechter, economic development director, more time to investigate the issue and how other cities have handled gun range legislation.
But it was still a contested topic, as residents from Avon Lake — including Mayor Greg Zilka — voiced concerns about Avon’s current gun range.
“The piercing sound of multiple volleys of gunshots and what appears to be rapid fire have proven to be very disturbing,” Zilka said. “In the context of the general mood around the nation, this situation has caused a great deal of anxiety on the part of some residents in my city.”
Right now, Avon has one gun range, open only to law enforcement. The outdoor range on Schneider Court is used roughly 44 days a year, according to Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The range is used by Avon police and area agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bay Village police and Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. It will not be affected by any changes to the city’s legislation surrounding the moratorium.
Fechter and Jensen agreed the city is looking to limit outdoor gun ranges coming into the city. Jensen said the current outdoor range is needed for law enforcement to train under different conditions than would be available to them on an indoor range.
The range is in a general industrial district, which is where Avon is looking to keep any indoor ranges potentially coming into the city. The city’s industrial-zoned properties are north of Interstate 90, bordering Avon Lake.
“If you look at our proximity to our residential … it’s right over the highway, so our residential’s not that far away,” Jensen said. “We’ve tried to put it in a location that has the least impact on everybody.”
But the noise complaints continue to roll in from the neighboring city — even on days when Avon’s range is not open. According to Jensen, Avon police have received calls regarding the range and noise on the weekends, although the range is only open during the week.
Matthew Reynolds, of Avon Lake, asked why Avon’s range was put so close to his city’s border, and told anecdotes of how the gunfire affects those close to him, including his friend who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Navy.
“I would never ask him to come visit me until (the noise) is taken care of, because I know that if he heard this sound, it would wreck him,” Reynolds said. “If he were to come here and hear that sound, especially from Jaycox Road, he would be under the table crying. So what I ask is that we please … reduce this sound. There’s stuff we can do, we can work together and we can fix this.”
Avon Lake Ward 2 Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch expressed similar concerns.
“The discomfort and anxiety Avon Lake residents are experiencing is based partially on the unknown,” Fenderbosch said. “When they hear gunfire without notice, they do not know if there is an active-shooter scenario or if it is practice. Because there are no public postings, they have no idea how long the gunfire will take place.”
She later asked the dates and times for the outdoor range’s use be posted on Avon’s website. Jensen said the city would not do that, as it could put residents in harm’s way by advertising when police were qualifying.
Jensen said Avon and Avon Lake could come to a compromise on the issue, but the two cities have to come together and understand training for law enforcement is necessary — despite the noise it can cause.
“The most unfortunate thing is the reason that we have to do what we have to do is because our world’s changed,” Jensen said. “If we didn’t have people killing our children, we wouldn’t have to prepare like what we do. … Unfortunately there are some people that … are afraid (of the range), as they’re afraid it’s because we live in a world that’s changed completely.
“Those children that were killed in those schools (shootings), how do you go back to those parents and say, ‘Hey, we ran in there, but we weren’t really qualified to shoot because we wanted to be careful because there (were) noises coming from (another) area.’”
The next scheduled Avon Planning Commission meeting is 7 p.m. Sept. 19 in council chambers.