Elgin council reverses itself, OKs gun range catering to women
The city of Elgin will be getting a new gun store and shooting range on the west side after all.
Two weeks ago, the Elgin City Council turned down, in a 4-4 vote, the plan to open Fox Valley Shooting Club at 780 S. McLean Blvd. But Councilman Toby Shaw, who previously voted "no," resurrected the issue on Wednesday night thanks to a rule that allows a motion to reconsider within two weeks.
Meanwhile, the makeup of the city council changed in the wake of the April election, with new Councilman Corey Dixon replacing Councilman John Prigge. Also, Councilman Rich Dunne was absent two weeks ago but was present Wednesday night. The council approved the plan in a 5-4 vote.
Shaw changed his vote to a "yes."
"I viewed it as doing my job and giving all parties a chance (to vote)," he said.
Dunne's vote was crucial, after a surprise move by Dixon, who had recommended approval of the plan as a planning and zoning commissioner in March but voted "no" Wednesday.
"The people in that community don't want it there. I think that's what's really resonating with me," Dixon said. "It's their community, they don't want it, so I will stand with them."
Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger, who opposes the plan, called Shaw's move "Machiavellian." Mayor David Kaptain and Councilwoman Tish Powell also voted "no."
Businessman Mark Glavin said the gun range will cater to women -- a growing market among shooting enthusiasts -- with an aesthetically pleasing, family-friendly environment.
More than 30 people spoke impassionedly. Supporters said guns are safe when handled adequately and with proper training in the right facility. Opponents cited concerns about safety, traffic, noise, declining property values, and proximity to a building that hosts Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, which provides services to children with developmental delays and disabilities, and a preschool program run by Elgin Area School District U-46.
Councilman Terry Gavin, who voted in favor, took issue with that. "Listening to people say we are not concerned about public safety? I'm sorry. That's not true."
Resident Lucille Daly, who lives nearby, said giving the OK means gun range customers "will receive their liberty and justice ... but where is it for all those homeowners who have invested their money and are raising their families in that areas?" she said. "It's no place for a gun range."
But resident Jeff Jones, who also lives nearby, said he got over his skepticism by getting answers about safety and noise pollution at an open house held by Glavin. "He did alleviate my concerns," Jones said.
Councilman John Steffen said he "reluctantly" supported the gun range. Councilwoman Rose Martinez also voted in favor.
Conditions include not displaying any merchandise in windows facing McLean Boulevard, no sale of alcohol and signs stating that parking off-premises is prohibited.
The city of Chicago lost two lawsuits after attempting to ban, then limit, gun ranges. The plaintiff in those lawsuits, Chicago resident Rhonda Ezell, asked Elgin not to follow Chicago's example and spend taxpayer money on litigation.
Dunne agreed. "If we were found in the wrong, we would have to pay the legal fees, potentially, and damages to the plaintiffs. And that concerns me."