LAFAYETTE TOWNSHIP, Ohio - Township trustees hope to have an open dialogue with representatives of a local church after learning it's considered opening an outdoor gun range on a 30-acre parcel of land.
Trustees said a representative of the Medina Assembly of God contacted them about building the range, taking the township's zoning inspector on a tour of the property to explain their plan.
But the trustees said even if they wanted to object, they have no authority to do that.
The church itself is in the city of Medina, but it owns property on Lafayette Road near the Buckeye Woods in the Medina County Park District.
Trustees said the plan is to build an outdoor range where guns that include a .50 caliber would be fired.
The property is zoned rural/residential, but Board of Trustees President Lynda Bowers said state law prohibits them from regulating a firing range.
"In the state of Ohio, townships are not permitted to prohibit discharging firearms by zoning at all, for any reason," said Bowers, who admits owning and shooting guns herself and is a strong advocate for the Second Amendment.
But Bowers says there is room for concern if the range is ever to be built.
"Townships aren't all just big expanses of farm land anymore. There's at least 50 townships in the state of Ohio that have more than 10,000 residents, there's at least 20 townships that have more than 25,000 residents. That's larger than many cities and villages, and many of these townships have, like our own, some zoning where you have densities of maybe two-three homes on an acre and that's just not a good situation for discharging firearms. It's not safe," Bowers said.
Trustee Michael Costello is also a firearms owner, but has some concerns.
"Safety is always got to be, you know, a township trustee's number one concern and the welfare of the residents of the township as well as the visitors to the township," Costello said.
"My biggest concern is going to be what is the quality of the backstop, what is the level of expertise of the shooters, what are their skill sets, what types of weapons are they going to be firing and if that backstop gets missed, what are the potential targets, where that projectile could ultimately end up," he added
Costello said because the plan that has been discussed with them is an outdoor range with a railroad tie backstop and does not include a shelter. The church would not need a building permit.
Trustees are also mindful of an incident last summer in nearby Montville Township, where bullets hit a house after they were fired from two miles away from a property where there was a 7-foot high backstop.
Many residents of the township said they own and use guns. They said used to hearing others around them sighting their guns, hunting and taking target practice on their property.
"I'm open to listening to their discussion and if it's something that is being done safely and responsibly and isn't going to be an annoyance to all the neighbors, then I would certainly listen to it and I would give it consideration," said Jan Zelepsky, who lives nearby.
The property is near baseball diamonds and soccer fields in the park. A railroad would be downrange. It is bordered by a growing residential development on one side and the Chippewa Inlet Trail, where people frequently walk, hike, jog and ride bicycles on the other.
Medina Assembly of God Lead Pastor Adam Allen told FOX 8 News that the range is far from a done deal. Allen describes it as something that has been only in the discussion phase as they begin to gather information.
In fact, he said the plan is so preliminary, it has not yet even been discussed with church members.
The idea is to make the range an outreach ministry.
He said safety is also their biggest concern.
"We would never do something in our community to harm people," said Allen.