Drama with the gun club

Rick DeClue · Thursday, June 13, 2013
West Liberty Mayor Chad Thomas and City Manager Chris Ward met with West Liberty Gun Club President David Kelzenberg and gun club member Robert Wennerholm on Thursday, June 6.

After what can be described as a misstep by the gun club, the club is working with the city council to settle issues that will allow the club to rebuild its indoor shooting range.

Ward informed the city council at its June 4 meeting that the gun club had appeared at the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors meeting the previous evening with an application for a conditional use permit, which Kelzenberg claimed was submitted jointly with the city.

When Ward notified the supervisors that the city was not a party to the application, the request was withdrawn.

Under a 100-year lease, and with 65 years remaining, the gun club leases its property from the city.

Due to a fire that substantially destroyed the club’s indoor facility, the city wants to revisit the lease to ensure it reflects current gun club operations.

During the council meeting, Thomas expressed concerns about two major issues: The city wants to know the club’s liability insurance coverage is sufficient. And the city wants to verify allowable types of weapons are being fired at the indoor and outdoor ranges.

Thomas emphasized neither he nor the council are anti-gun or anti-gun club. He noted the value of the club for training the city’s police force and as a source of education for gun safety.

He also stressed that resetting the lease terms was not an economic issue. The club pays the city a nominal $1 per year rent under the terms of the existing lease.

According to Thomas, both sides are aware the gun club could continue to operate its outdoor range without resetting the lease. Obtaining the conditional use permit to rebuild the indoor facility requires the city’s cooperation.

Council Member Jose Zacarias noted the insurance issue was critical. In the event of an accident at the range, if the club’s insurance was insufficient, then someone could ask the city to cover damages.

As the land owners, “we have rights and responsibilities,” Zacarias said.

At the June 6 meeting, the club submitted a proposed new lease for review by the city’s attorney.

Based on their discussion, Ward said, “I think the issues will be resolved sooner rather than later.”

Kelzenberg said the meeting was “pretty cordial,” adding both sides want to renegotiate the lease.

“We value our relationship with the city,” he said.
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