Supporters of a proposal to transform a vacant Bloomingdale building into a shooting sports facility say it would bring a much-needed new business to the community.
Neighbors who live near the former sheet metal fabricating building, however, say they don't want to see it become a gun range.
On Wednesday night, more than 200 people filled a ballroom at Bloomingdale Golf Club for a public hearing organized by Bloomingdale's plan commission.
The advisory panel is trying to determine whether Julian Perez, a certified firearms instructor who teaches classes in Hoffman Estates, should be allowed to convert the vacant building at 7 N. Circle Ave. into a facility that would have two pistol ranges, a rifle range and a private range.
Once the plan commission makes its recommendation, the village board will have the final say.
Perez says he wants to open the roughly 42,000-square-foot facility -- dubbed The Range Bloomingdale -- to offer training for residents, including those who need gun-safety training to qualify for a concealed carry permit.
"The sport of shooting is a recreational sport enjoyed by millions of Americans," said Perez, adding he wants The Range Bloomingdale to be a recreational facility for the entire family.
In addition to the ranges, the facility would have classroom areas, a retail store, a library, a museum and on-site gun repair and cleaning services. There also would be separate areas for beginners to learn how to shoot using replica firearms.
But neighbors of the property say they fear the facility would cause excessive noise, traffic and air pollution. They also argue it would have a negative effect on their property values and quality of life.
"Myself and the residents in the neighborhood are not here opposed to guns," neighbor Tony Halachoulis said. "We are here opposed to the location of this range."
A consultant hired by Perez determined the proposed building's ventilation equipment would create noise that's at or slightly below ambient level. The consultant also said the sound of gunshots would be well below the ambient sound levels.
But Halachoulis played a video he made outside two existing suburban gun ranges that showed he could hear ventilation equipment and gunshots from 100 feet away.
Halachoulis said the sound of rounds being fired inside the proposed building and the noise generated by the air filtration and ventilation system would prevent him and his neighbors from enjoying their properties.
Perez said his range would be different from the ones Halachoulis visited. He said the construction company he plans to use has installed gun ranges in high-rise buildings that haven't had any problems.
Still, Perez is promising to fix any issues that might arise when his facility opens.
"I stand by my word," he said. "If there is a sound problem, I will fix it. If there's a traffic problem, I will fix it."
Meanwhile, several supporters agreed with Perez that the project could help revitalize the area. The proposed site is north of the intersection of Circle and Lake Street.
"We have somebody that wants to take this building and actually convert it into a useful building," said Bill Belmonte of Bloomingdale. "I don't think that we need to let another business not occupy Bloomingdale and go to Glendale Heights or go to Roselle."
Still, neighbor Richard Turek said village trustees should look at the proposal as a "nuisance business."
"If Mr. Perez wants to move a sheet metal factory in there, fine," Turek said. "I'm for it."