Club mulls lawsuit against Beloit

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April 15, 2008
— A rifle club is poised to sue the town of Beloit over the requirement for a conditional-use permit.

Brad Mueller, Beloit Rifle Club construction director, said an attorney has drafted a claim against the town.

The club could file it after the town board didn’t budge Monday when the club argued against the permit, Mueller said.

The Beloit Rifle Club, 809 E. Philhower Road, Beloit, applied in August 2006 for a permit to expand its shooting facilities. The town denied the application, saying it was incomplete.

The town granted the club a license to operate in 1968. The club expanded in 1974 and bought property in 2000 for another expansion.

Mueller argued at a town board workshop Monday that the permit granted in 1968 takes the place of the conditional-use permit and that only the planned expansion requires a conditional-use permit.

Town Administrator Bob Museus disagreed and said town ordinance requires a conditional-use permit for the entire property.

Just because the town mistakenly didn’t require the permit in the past doesn’t change the law, and the town is responsible to correct the earlier mistake, Museus said.

In the 2006 permit application, the club said it would develop three new ranges: a 20-position multipurpose range up to 100 yards, a 10-position intermediate range up to 300 meters, and a separate “Cowboy Action” facility. A club brochure describes cowboy action shooting as a combination of historical re-enactment and Saturday matinee.

Museus said the conditional-use permit would help the town regulate the club’s activities to keep the public safe. The club must submit plans for each range in the club, he said. A licensed engineer must certify the plans to assure they match guidelines set by the National Rifle Association or another reputable organization.

Mueller said it would be impossible for an engineer to do so because the NRA standards are “guidelines” not “rules.”

Mueller told the board Monday that it’s unfair that the Town of Beloit Police Department is not held to the same standards as the rifle club. He said the town’s requirement for the rifle club to have a conditional-use permit is “arbitrary and capricious.”

Museus said the police department is part of a governmental body and is not required to be held to the same requirements as the private club.

Mueller said the club is concerned it could lose its protection under the Wisconsin Range Protection Act if it is required to get a conditional-use permit in addition to the 1968 license to operate.

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