Request to seek zoning change for gun range site in Stutsman County fails
A gun range was shut down in 2013 due to stray bullets.
JAMESTOWN — The Stutsman County Park Board will not seek a zoning change on a proposed site for an outdoor shooting range about 15 miles northwest of Jamestown.
A motion by Commissioner Steve Cichos on Tuesday, March 21, to approach Buchanan Township about a zoning change failed due to the lack of a second.
On March 8, a North Dakota Game and Fish Department official proposed a site for an outdoor shooting range south of Stutsman County Road 42 just east of Jamestown Reservoir to the Stutsman County Park Board. The Game and Fish Department was looking at a potential land lease agreement with the county for about 10 acres of land at the proposed site. Egeland said it could be less than 10 acres.
“We do have funding to build a range,” said Marty Egeland, education section supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “We had looked at this parcel of land. We approached the county to see if it would be agreeable to go on to do some kind of partnership for a range.”
A gun range at Pipestem Reservoir was shut down in 2013 due to stray bullets. Park Board member Bob Martin said the stray bullets hit buildings that were about a mile from the gun range.
“They were standing in the parking lot shooting off range,” he said.
Joel Lees said he lives above the hill north of the proposed site, which is more than half a mile from the proposed site. He said he has cattle all around the proposed site and the site is underwater half of the time during times of high water.
He said the park board needs to do its due diligence and not allow an outdoor shooting range at the proposed site instead of pushing the decision onto the Buchanan Township board.
“We’ve had incidents of cattle getting shot during the deer season,” Lees said. “We as a township have to deal with the people after they use the gun site driving around on the township roads, looking for something else to shoot.”
Egeland said gun users would be shooting in a southward direction and the shooting range could be built further south on the parcel of land.
“It’s all bermed. We could certainly orient it slightly southeast if you want,” he said.
Commissioner Joan Morris questioned if the site is the right location for an outdoor shooting range.
“That particular area, there’s homes there, there are boaters on the water, fishermen that fish from the Buchanan bridge,” she said.
She also asked if the Game and Fish Department would be willing to be a partner for an indoor shooting range.
Egeland said the Game and Fish Department would be willing to be a partner for an indoor range. He said the cost to build an indoor range will be in the millions versus around $500,000 for an outdoor range.
Egeland also said the department has federal funds that are available to build a shooting range. He said the Game and Fish Department would provide 90% matching funds for a new shooting range.
In other business, the park board unanimously approved having Stutsman County State’s Attorney Fritz Fremgen review documents about dock permits for residences east of Jamestown Reservoir that are about 5 miles north of Jamestown and to have an opinion by April 15.
If Fremgen doesn’t have the time, he is requested to make a recommendation of a private attorney who can.
The park board received a letter from the Bureau of Reclamation that said docks with issued permits to be allowed are in violation of the easements that have been placed on the property by Reclamation, said Mark Klose, chair of the Stutsman County Commission. He said the letter needs to be reviewed by an attorney.
The park board had sent a letter to Reclamation to make sure its land use management policies are in line with the Reclamation's expectations. The park board is seeking an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation that issuing seasonal dock permits to adjacent landowners does not compromise any of the agreements about a land transfer.
When Stutsman County received the land from the Bureau of Reclamation, it had the ability to rent the docks to residences, Morris said. She said Reclamation didn’t have a problem with the docks being permitted by the park board three years ago. She said now the Reclamation told the park board that the docks cannot be permitted.
“I think one of the things that I was most excited about when we received the land was the ability to rent these private docks for the folks on the reservoir,” she said. “I believe that when we voted on this we were told first of all that the bureau had no issue with it which is what we were afraid of because if you read the sale agreement it says that if we … violate any of these provisions that the land would revert back to the federal government.”
Tory Anderson, who lives in the area, said residents are willing to help pay for an attorney to get a clarification on whether the docks can be permitted or not. He said the residents would make sure the area where the docks would be permitted is maintained.
Morris said the best route to get something done might be to get Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., involved.
Stutsman County Commission
Jamestown resident Tom Tracy spoke about the book ban bills in the North Dakota Legislature during the county commission meeting Tuesday.
He said the bills have to do with pornographic, obscene books that have been found in public schools and libraries.
He questioned why the James River Valley Library System Board of Directors joined a class action lawsuit against the book ban bills in the North Dakota Legislature. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP will represent North Dakota librarians and board trustees at no cost if House Bill 1205 and Senate Bill 2360 are not killed at the committee level.
If passed, HB 1205 defines “explicit sexual material” as “any material which, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of minors; is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community in North Dakota as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; and taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
HB 1205 also mandates public libraries to develop a policy and process for reviewing library collections including the removal or relocating of sexual material, how to respond to a request to remove the materials and reviewing the library collection to ensure it does not contain explicit sexual material by Jan. 1, 2024.
SB 2360 criminalizes a person who willfully displays at newsstands or any other business establishment frequented by minors or where minors are or may be invited any material that either contains explicit sexual material that is harmful to minors.
Tracy said not to believe all the arguments about censorship. Joe Rector, library system director, previously said the bills are violations of the First and 14th amendments.
Morris, who represents the county on the library board, said she voted to join the lawsuit because of the way the bills are written. She said one bill is written specifically for children and she understands that explicit sexual material needs to get away from children. She said the other bill is a bit broader and deals with all items in the library including items in the adult section of libraries.
Tracy said “Let’s talk about it” is the book in question and was in the Valley City Barnes County Public Library.
“Twelve-year-olds could check this book out,” he said.
He said the book is one of about 40 similar books found in public, school and county libraries in North Dakota.
Tracy said he took the book and showed it to Detective Capt. LeRoy Gross with the Jamestown Police Department.
“I said, ‘When you have arrested people for child pornography, have you seen similar images and what they have collected and what they have that are similar to what’s in this book,’ and he said, 'Yes, absolutely,’” Tracy said.
Morris said the book is not in the James River Valley Library System’s collection.