Neighbor fret about proposed firearms training academy

Former Army Ranger proposed facility near Blue Lake in Muskegon County

Blue Lake Township, firearms training
The type of firearms training that would be offered at a proposed facility in Blue Lake Township. (Still image from video courtesy Joseph Brugnoli)

BLUE LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A plan calling for a massive tactical weapons training facility in a rural area near Blue Lake in Muskegon County is drawing criticism from neighbors who say that type of facility does not belong. But the man proposing the facility says it serves a need that is going unfilled in Michigan.

The venue for a Blue Lake Township Planning Commission meeting later this week at which the facility will be discussed had to be moved to accommodate the anticipated crowd.

The facility, described by the man behind it as a training academy, would occupy a thickly wooded lot that is currently zoned for residential use. If rezoned, the facility would include a shooting tower, tree stands, ranges and areas for training in combat use of a handgun and gun fighting from a vehicle.

>>Online: Ranger Firearm Instruction

Joseph Brugnoli — an attorney, former cop and U.S. Army Ranger veteran who served in Iraq who proposed the academy — trains people in the use of all kinds firearms from handguns to assault weapons to automatic guns. He said people misunderstand what he has planned.

“We are not a gun range. I can’t stress that enough,” Brugnoli said.

He said he will employ a couple dozen ex-police and former military members who will train civilians, security police and even members of the military on the safe and effective use of weapons for defense and protection.

“You cannot come and just shoot there. You have highly qualified instructors — the majority of my staff is law enforcement or military — and they will be with you,” Brugnoli said.

The grounds would normally be open until 10 p.m., but training could take place around the clock under some special circumstances

“We’re not doing anything that’s not normal in the state of Michigan. Michigan residents are proud firearms owners and they do a lot of hunting and they do a lot of shooting. There’s over 500 gun ranges in the state of Michigan,” Brugnoli said.

Neighbors worry about the type of people the academy may attract — civilians looking to obtain paramilitary style training on assault-type weapons. They also worry that the academy could expand beyond its current 61 acres to include land that was slated for development but has not been selling. They worry the result will be lower property values and danger to those using the nearby Manistee National Forest. They’re also concerned about noise coming from a facility that could operate 24 hours a day.

“I understand it and I appreciate the sound and the nuances that happen, but at the same time to find a place that fits this criteria is very limited in Michigan,” the developer said.

Brugnoli said the plans that most people have seen at the township have been updated and changes have been made to accommodate people’s concerns. But some neighbors say cosmetic changes will not alleviate their fundamental concerns.