The New Lenox Village Board of Trustees agreed to revise an ordinance regulating zoning for gun shops and indoor gun ranges at their March 27 meeting.
The rule written, as is, did not pass with a second read.
The village’s existing ordinance does not designate any guidelines for zoning.
When officials were approached recently by a party looking to build a gun shop and indoor gun range, the village looked into reviewing a draft ordinance that addressed zoning for uses of this type during a work session in January.
“In that initial ordinance at our work session in January, we talked about adding the 500-feet [separation rule] from any residentially zoned property, schools, parks, churches, pre-schools and daycare centers,” Baldermann recalled. “Subsequent to that, there was a case that came out of the City of Chicago where the city was sued for being too restrictive in where they were allowing gun shops. This 500 foot part of the ordinance was kind of the key point of the suit in saying that it was too restrictive, and the court tended to agree.”
When the ordinance returned to the village board for first read earlier this month, that stipulation was pulled.
Legal counsel had notified the board of the lawsuit the City of Chicago faced and advised them on how to proceed.
Baldermann said he’s received between 15 and 20 emails from concerned residents and decided to look more closely at the case law that came out.
“My impression is that they were being overly restrictive making it nearly impossible for somebody to open a gun shop or a gun range in the City [of Chicago], and so therefore they really didn’t have a basis for their restrictions in their city ordinances,” he said.
Baldermann said it’s not all that clear if the same effect is true of New Lenox’s proposed ordinance amending zoning for gun shops and indoor gun ranges.
Village officials said 59 percent of the village’s zoned area would still be able to accommodate such uses.
“You may have a parcel that is under the zoning we’re considering tonight where a portion of it if it’s within 500 feet of those restricted areas would not be able to have a gun shop or a gun range, but the remainder of the parcel might,” Baldermann said.
“Digging a little deeper into why perhaps that happened, I believe that we can keep the 500-foot restriction from schools and parks the way that it was originally written for us in January that we had all agreed on and still be safe, because there is ample area for the zoning that we’re considering for anyone that’s interested in opening a gun shop or gun range,” Baldermann added.
Baldermann noted that he supports such businesses and their pursuits as well as the people’s rights to the second amendment and said it remains local government’s responsibility to apply some common sense balance.
“In fact, what we were doing was trying to be responsible because the ordinance that was on the books pretty much said you could go anywhere,” he said.
Baldermann wants to see the ordinance’s 500-foot rule put back into writing under special use.
Trustee David Smith agreed.
“We’re not against any business, but you have to be in the appropriate place,” he said.
Attendee Jennifer Kmitch, of New Lenox, noted the restrictions the village is subject to in response to a previous case law and said she agrees with the board’s decision.
“I am thankful for you opening up the position of looking at restricting businesses to have 500 feet between the restrictive type of businesses and the gun shops and gun ranges,” she said.
Kmitch recognizes that gun violence affects everybody in every single community and said any steps that can be taken to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands is a positive for the village.
“To the extent that we can do stuff that prohibits people from obtaining weapons they don’t need to have, we want to make sure to do what we can,” she said.
Baldermann noted that a concern was raised for the party interested in building a gun shop and indoor gun range within village limits and said that owner is not within 500 feet of uses that would prohibit the development. The owner will need to follow municipal rules and work with village staff in order to establish the new business, he said.
The board will consider an ordinance amending zoning of gun shops and indoor gun ranges in April.