Sands shooting range officially not going to be built at site

Darlene Walch, supervisor, Republic Township

MARQUETTE — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will have to continue looking for a public shooting range in the region.

The Sands Township Board Tuesday unanimously OK’d the motion to support recommendations by the Sands Township and Marquette County planning commissions to oppose the rezoning of about 20 acres of land from industrial to open space.

That rezoning was necessary for the shooting range to be created.

“I want to make it clear, that everybody understands that this is not turning down the shooting range per se,” township Supervisor Darlene Walch said. “It’s a recommendation to turn down a request for rezoning because of the location — where they wanted to put the shooting range — doesn’t allow for that particular activity.”

The DNR had sought to build a 12-lane range on about 20 acres of land in Sands Township owned by the Marquette County Road Commission, located along Marquette County Road 480 west of the Crossroads at M-553 near A. Lindberg and Sons Inc., a producer of aggregate materials.

The Sands Township Planning Commission on May 1 denied a request from the DNR to have the parcel of land rezoned from industrial to open space.

The public range would have been the first of its kind in the Upper Peninsula. Earlier this month, a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for $225,000 was approved for development of such a range.

At previous Sands Township Planning Commission meetings this year, some members of the public voiced their support of the range while others expressed concern over potential safety and noise issues.

There was no public discussion, though, during the Tuesday meeting.

Lori Burford, a shooting range specialist for the state of Michigan, was in the audience Tuesday but did not address the board. However, she said before the meeting that the DNR would continue to discuss the possibility of a shooting range with the Marquette County Road Commission and Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.

“We have encouraged the DNR to keep looking for a location that is in the appropriate zoning, and I believe that’s what’s happening,” Walch said. “Open space does allow for that type of activity with special use, so it really had to do with a specific piece of property and the existing zoning versus the concept of the shooting range at this point.

“That’s not to say that everybody is supporting the shooting range, it’s just that wasn’t the issue being addressed. The issue was the rezoning, so I’m sure we’ll continue our discussions with the DNR to see if we can come up with something.”