The City of Fremont is still searching for a location to place its proposed gun range for local law enforcement after meeting with the Saunders County Board of Supervisors last month.
The board unanimously approved a motion to request that the City apply for zoning approval after public comment against the range’s location during its Sept. 17 meeting.
The proposed location is on an area of land owned by the City on the northern side of Saunders County, just south of the Platte River. The land is just south of All Metals Market.
The shooting range would be open for the Fremont and Wahoo police departments, as well as the Dodge and Saunders county sheriff’s offices.
City Administrator Brian Newton said when he took his job over four years ago, the previous gun range had been at a wellfield.
But that location came to an end after a group of people, which Newton said was not FPD, brought a vehicle without its fluids drained onto the range and used it for target practice.
“We said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, you can’t do that,’ and we closed it after that,” he said. “It doesn’t have the proper liner and we can’t take that risk in the wellfield, and we certainly don’t want those fluids getting into the city waters.”
Currently, local law enforcement has been using a shooting range in Omaha, but that has become increasingly difficult due to scheduling, Newton said.
Attorney Brad Holtorf is representing three landowners on properties to the west, north and south of the proposed location. He said a little over a year ago, the City made an application with the Saunders County Planning Commission to remove dirt on the land.
“Within that plan that they had to remove dirt, it showed that they had designed a gun range on part of the property, and that’s why, in part, they were moving this dirt,” Holtorf said. “Well, that information got communicated in one fashion or another to some adjacent property owners who all then contacted me because they were concerned about having a gun range.”
Last year, the Planning Commission denied the request due to safety issues with removing the dirt. But the issue was brought forward to the Fremont City Council this year to request funding for moving the dirt.
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“We’ve been looking at it for some time, and when it came up in front of the council in August to do some work on it, we found out there was significant opposition to placing it in that location,” Fremont Police Chief Jeff Elliott said. “We’ve looked at it, and we believe that it is a good location, but obviously, the neighbors disagree with that.”
Holtorf said because of the land’s close proximity to an extreme number of homes, the shooting range would not be safe and not to the best interest of the people around it.
More than 160 residents in a mile-and-a-half area of the proposed location signed a petition against its construction to the Board of Supervisors.
Newton said he doesn’t know if the Board of Supervisors’ decision will change anything but says there are other potential locations.
“We certainly want to be respectful of the property we own, but we’re still exploring other options,” he said. “That wasn’t the only option, but we have not done the final due diligence to figure out which one we’re pursuing yet.”
One of these proposed locations is currently being looked at by the National Guard and City of Omaha. The shooting range would be located near Mead, Newton said.
“I just think that everything is moving in a good direction for both parties,” Holtorf said. “I just hope that the present land that they’re trying to work an arrangement out of Mead will work out, because that would be good for everybody.”
Newton said although there isn’t much information now, the City will eventually figure out what’s going to happen.
“If we are going to put it in Saunders County on the property that we own, we said we would hold a public meeting and make sure we get some information out there, but it’s too early to do that right now because we’re not there yet,” he said. “I think in the next month or something we’ll probably know a lot more.”
Eliott said he’s hopeful to find a location that will make everybody involved happy.
“The Fremont police, all these agencies, have got to have a place to shoot,” he said. “But we’re looking for a place that is not as controversial as we had.”