Judge issues preliminary injunction against Madison Township shooting range

·4 min read

Apr. 4—A judge has issued a preliminary injunction that will limit the type of shooting allowed at the C4 Shooting & Training Center in Madison Township.

Visiting Judge James Kimbler granted a preliminary injunction that will permit only skeet and trap shooting to be conducted at C4, which is located at 6347 E. Loveland Road. His decision was contained in a document filed on the afternoon of March 31 in the Lake County Clerk of Courts Office.

In his ruling, Kimbler stated that C4 cannot allow "target shooting on the property it controls, other than trap and skeet shooting."

Madison Township trustees filed a legal complaint in Lake County Common Pleas Court on July 18, alleging that C4, by operating a shooting range at its current location, was violating the community's zoning resolution.

Township Solicitor Gary Pasqualone, in an April 3 email, emphasized that Kimbler's ruling does not mark the end of the case.

"The initial complaint that we filed sought both a temporary injunction and a permanent injunction," Pasqualone said. "The court will schedule the matter for final hearing on our request for a permanent injunction."

Trustees and other township government officials have received numerous complaints about C4 Shooting & Training Center from residents who live near the business.

Many of those grievances mentioned constant noise generated by the shooting at C4. Other residents talked about bullets whizzing past their heads while outdoors or finding ammunition on their properties, which they believe resulted from errant gunfire at the shooting center.

Trustees had requested that legal action be taken against Hambden Sportsman Inc., which is listed as doing business as C4 Shooting & Training Center, and C4 Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Neil Harrison. However, the township dismissed Harrison as a defendant on Feb. 15.

Kimbler, in his March 31 ruling, said Madison Township, in its motion for a preliminary injunction, "has established, by clear and convincing evidence, that the present use of the property in question (by C4) is a violation of the zoning resolution of Madison Township."

The township's zoning resolution allows a private club or a lodge to engage in recreational activities in an Agricultural Residential area as long as it has obtained a conditional-use permit, Kimbler said.

He noted that C4 is located on land in an Agricultural Residential area.

"C4 is not a club or a lodge, nor has it ever obtained conditional-use permit," Kimbler stated. "Therefore, its current use of the property is a violation of the Madison Township Zoning Resolution."

Kimbler's ruling also addressed the question: "Is the use of the property by C4 a continuation or an improper expansion of a prior nonconforming use that existed prior to the adoption of the current Madison Township Zoning Resolution?"

Kimbler wrote that C4 "has not established by a preponderance of evidence that the manner in which it is using the land is a continuation of a prior nonconforming use."

Urbandale Gun Club, which once was located on the same property as C4, had been classified as a prior, nonconforming use in 1986, when Madison Township changed the regulations for private clubs, lodges and recreational buildings in the Agricultural Residential zone.

"The township believed that the Urbandale Gun Club was a prior, nonconforming use since it was represented as a "club" that was offering a recreational activity," Kimbler stated. "The recreational activity was trap and skeet shooting."

Urbandale opened prior to 1957, when Madison Township voters approved the community's zoning resolution.

Kimbler conceded that trap and skeet shooting is a type of target shooting — although the targets move — and these activities are still offered at C4. However, he also noted C4, a business that is open to the general public, rather than only club members, has greatly expanded the types and amount of target shooting done on the property.

"Basically, what had been a relatively small operation has become a much bigger commercial operation which permits and even encourages the public to engage in the firing of all kinds of weapons," Kimbler stated.

Township Administrator Tim Brown said the community's government leaders would not be issuing any statements offering opinions about Kimber's decision.

Jeff Ruple, attorney for Hambden Sportsman Inc., also declined to comment on the ruling.

Earlier this year, in a separate action, township trustees unanimously rejected a request by Harrison to add new language to the community's zoning text.

He asked that the township zoning code be amended to permit a shooting training center of 55 acres or larger as a conditional use, only in Agricultural Residential districts that are located south of the Grand River. C4 is based in that part of the township and meets the acreage requirement stated in the proposed zoning amendment.

The amendment also included language which would have given shooting centers an opportunity to seek conditional-use permits for testing and demonstrating weapons on their properties.

Trustees followed a recommendation they received from township Zoning Commission to deny the proposed zoning-text amendment.

Trustees and the zoning commission held separate public hearings, where they heard overwhelming opposition to the proposal from homeowners who reside near C4.