Residents object to rezoning for firearms academy

Developer, residents discussed proposal before Blue Lake Twp. Planning Commission

Blue Lake Township, firearms training academy
A sign opposing a proposal to put in a firearms training academy in Blue Lake Township. (Nov. 3, 2016)

BLUE LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Upset residents flooded a Thursday night meeting to tell the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission they don’t want a firearms training academy to be built in their community.

Developer Joseph Brugnoli wants to put in the Ranger Firearm Instruction facility on a currently vacant 62-acre wooded lot in northern Muskegon County. But for that to happen, the planning commission must rezone the property, which is current zoned for residential use.

Brugnoli, a former police officer and U.S. Army Ranger who served in Iraq, said there are a number of misconceptions about his plan.

“I want to start off with going over a lot of different things that I hope will answer your questions,” he told community members gathered at Blue Lake Community Church for the meeting.

He said RFI started in 2010 with the goal of giving military members and law enforcement top-notch firearms training.

“Your people that protect your community — Blue Lake, Muskegon, Whitehall, Montague — can get the best training possible so that they go home at night and not be a statistic on the wall,” he said.

>>Online: Ranger Firearm Instruction

Brugnoli said the facility would not be a shooting range open to the public and that the people taking his classes would be carefully vetted.

“Law enforcement, certain military training, civilians and private security companies,” he listed, “that is what we do.”

He said the facility would generally operate within normal business hours. Earlier this week, he told 24 Hour News 8 that training may sometimes take place around the clock under special circumstances.

The closest homes would be within 20 acres.

Blue Lake Township Planning Commission, firearms training academy
A large crowd at the Nov. 3, 2016 meeting of the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission to discuss a proposed firearms training academy.

Residents said they were concerned about safety, noise and protecting natural land and wildlife in the Manistee National Forest.

“My heart sank, because I grew up in this community and I remember when I first came out here, I remember why we moved out to the country and it was so that we could enjoy the peace of quiet, so that we could be part of a group of people who cared about each other,” resident Nicholas Bihler said.

“Frankly, I’m a little disturbed that anyone would even suggest that a rifle range is a reasonable addition to a residential area. That kind of thinking says it’s OK for a pedophile to live next door to a school,” another resident argued.

“I find it hard to believe that we would have to subcontract our work to a private individual to get proper training,” said another resident who was skeptical of Brugnoli’s business model.

The planning commission will consider Brugnoli’s presentation and public comments from the Thursday meeting before it makes any decisions.