A Lake Township trustee is repeating his request for an opinion from the Wood County Prosecutor’s office on what zoning resolutions a township can enforce to regulate shooting ranges – but with a slight change.
In a previous letter, Richard Welling asked the prosecutor’s office if there are zoning regulations a township can enforce regarding the discharge of firearms.
The office of Paul Dobson confirmed it had received the letter and said an opinion would be provided in about eight weeks.
Welling last week composed another letter he feels better reflects the concerns of township residents.
His letter, dated June 17, asks: “Are there any zoning resolutions/rules that the township can enforce/enact regarding the establishment of safe firing ranges in platted subdivisions?”
Last December, a Plumey Road resident told trustees he was concerned about a private range near his home.
He said he could hear what sounded like semi-automatic rifles being fired and questioned whether the range’s backstop was suited for such weaponry.
Adding to his concerns, he had built a ball field on his property where his grandchildren play.
Police chief Mark Hummer told the resident that officers have responded to complaints about shooting ranges in the township but are limited in what they can do, adding if officers can prove recklessness on the part of those at a range, charges will be filed.
Responding to a complaint involving a range on Lemoyne Road, an officer had to assess the situation and decide whether the facility was adequate for the amount of shooting at that time and the type of firearms being discharged.
The officer decided that situation was adequately safe, the chief said.
“Therein lies the problem,” he said. “It has to be done on a case by case basis. The officer has to make a determination of each situation at that time.”
Welling said last week most of the complaints the trustees receive about the discharge of firearms stem from those living in subdivisions and not in the more rural areas of the township.
The Ohio Township Association in the April edition of its Grassroots Clippings newsletter, states it has fielded a “high number” of calls from township officials, residents and legislators about the discharge of firearms.
Due to the increased interest in the issue, the association has included it in its priorities for the current state legislature.
“Ohio’s landscape is changing and the rural areas are fast becoming the center of the population shift in Ohio. There are approximately 20 townships in Ohio that have populations above 25,000 people in the unincorporated area and 50 townships with populations above 10,000. These population figures demonstrate that townships are not just the rural areas of vacant farmlands as they once were. Many Ohio townships have zoning regulations that permit up to two homes per acre, thus creating major safety concerns when a firearm is discharged. The OTA proposes legislation that would put townships on equal footing as municipalities with language that would permit the adoption of firearm discharge regulations based upon population and density within the township,” the newsletter says.
Unlike municipalities, townships are limited by the Ohio Revised Code in regulating the discharge of firearms.
Shooting ranges, however, are subject to a section of the ORC that authorizes the chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife to adopt rules that set standards for shooting ranges.