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Letter to Editor: Osage shooting range permit again denied

On Sept. 5, the Minnesota Court of Appeals for the second time reversed a Becker County Board decision to allow a conditional use permit (CUP) that would enable the Osage Sportsman's Club to expand their shooting range.

The permit was limited to a request to "clear timber in a Shore Impact Zone." In fact, the club had already cleared the timber, violating the purpose of the MPCA capped Osage Landfill. To secure an "after the fact" permit, 400 trees were replanted in the expansion area. Without this area, club plans are significantly limited.

The court concluded that while the county board had made specific findings addressing the CUP requirement "those findings were not legally sufficient to support its decision on the current record." They presented no evidence whether the club's expansion would comply with the statutory noise standards for shooting ranges or whether noise measurements were taken in conformity with those standards. There were no findings on the reconfiguration and their compliances with the standards in the ordinance. The court in its decision stated, "This narrow focus is legally insufficient to show that the county board took a 'hard look' at the problem, as required for granting a CUP."

This has been a flawed process. The Osage Town Board, without benefit of a public hearing, donated the capped town landfill on Straight Lake for $1, enabling the expansion. Over 100 homeowners petitioned them against their actions. It is now time for them and someone at the county to step up and take a leadership role in helping the club find a property that will be safe and provide them with the area they need to accomplish their goals. Attempting to find a workaround of the law and forcing the club to pay for expensive sound testing and continued litigation is not a solution. Two failures in the Court of Appeals hopefully will trigger this effort.