Elgin businessman vows to open competing gun range if his tenants leave
An Elgin nonprofit and the school district say the city communicated poorly about a gun range opening across the street, and their building's owner vows revenge if things go badly for him.
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and an Elgin Area School District U-46 preschool program are at 799 S. McLean Blvd., also home to Presence Home Care. The building, owned by Rick Heidner of Heidner Property Management, is across the street from Fox Valley Shooting Club, expected to open in spring 2018 at 780 S. McLean Blvd.
Heidner said if all his tenants leave because of the gun range, he will open his own range and undercut prices at Fox Valley Shooting Club.
"I am furious," he said. "If my building goes empty ... I will come back with the biggest gun range and rifle range in Kane County. I am more than 100 percent serious."
Fox Valley Shooting Club owner Mark Glavin said it would be Heidner's right to do so, and it would require a large amount of capital.
The gun range, opposed by Heidner and his tenants, was hotly debated at three city council meetings in April and May, when dozens of people spoke against and in favor. It was approved last week.
U-46 officials said the preschool program will depart when its lease expires in July 2018, and Easter Seals will evaluate whether to stay. Presence Home Care declined to comment.
Heidner said the agency is "not happy" about the gun range.
Heidner, of Barrington Hills, said he's been a "good neighbor" by investing about $4 million into the building and helping Easter Seals financially. In approving the gun range, the city was uncaring and cowardly as council members mentioned potential lawsuits, he said.
Easter Seals CEO Teresa Forthofer and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the city should have better anticipated the magnitude of the issue and contacted them before the March public hearing.
"I assumed based on our objection with the (planning and) zoning commission it would have stopped there," Sanders said. "To me, common sense says you don't put a gun range or a gun store 100 feet from a full-fledged school.
Easter Seals could have asked questions and gotten feedback about safety measures to take with a gun range across the street, Forthofer said.
"It could have avoided a contentious conversation," she said. "It could have been a collaborative partnership."
Elgin followed the law by printing a notice of the March 6 public hearing in a local newspaper and posting signs at the gun range site, Community Development Director Marc Mylott said.
The city mailed letters to property taxpayers within 250 feet of the gun range. The letter solicited comments.
That doesn't account for tenants like U-46 and Easter Seals, the CEOs said.
Two signs were posted Feb. 16 along College Green Drive and McLean Boulevard, Mylott said. "If you're a tenant in close proximity, those signs are there in the right of way."
Mayor David Kaptain said the city generally does a good job in communicating zoning issues but can do better when hot topics arise. "We need to be more sensitive, more alert when we know this is going to be a controversial issue."
For example, the radius of mailed letters could be expanded and tenants could be contacted, Kaptain said.
The letters don't include information about where to find public documents on the city's website, which Mylott said can be added. "If that's an opportunity that might help someone, we can make that change," he said.
The city took extra measures by asking Glavin to hold an open house before the public hearing, Mylott said. "Where we can foresee those types of potentially contentious applications, we recommend that the applicant do extraordinary outreach," he said.
The city should do that extra outreach, Forthofer said.
"We just wanted to be able to have a voice," she said. "And I don't mean three minutes at a council meeting."