Church closes shooting range after neighbor complaints

Posted at 12:30 PM, Jun 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-12 18:47:55-04

CASCADE TWP., Mich. -  A West Michigan church is shutting down its shooting range in an effort to mend their relationship with the community.

Ada Bible Church made the decision after six neighbors brought their concerns to Cascade Township's board meeting Wednesday night.

The shooting range opened three years ago on church property and there have been concerns ever since.

"We did have some that were concerned about the safety of the gun range but as far as the township’s concerns, we’re only allowed to enforce what our regulations are," said Ben Swayze, the Township Manager for Cascade Charter Township.

The church says they've made changes in an attempt to accommodate neighbor's wishes, by limiting the training area, what times the range was used, and what types of guns were used.

Church officials told the township that the shooting range was created to help train and qualify church security personal.

"If they have to resort to the shooting range and security to save themselves, I think they're going to the wrong church," said  Greg Smit, one of the six residents that voiced their concerns to the township Wednesday night.

Smit lives on 36th street about half a mile from the church's range and says he hired an attorney because he feels the township didn't do enough.

"Why didn't the township do something when I first complained three years go? It's crazy when they do their shooting back there and they could care less about what we think or feel," Smit said.

According to a township board memorandum, the range was used approximately once a week for thirty minutes, it was closed to the public, not used on holidays and the use of long guns, shotguns and certain handgun calibers were not allowed.

But Greg Smit remains skeptical on how true all of that might be.

"I know there are assault rifles back there.  It's loud, it's real loud," Smit said.

Despite concerns, according to the township, the church didn't pose a threat and the shooting range was in compliance with all township laws.

"If the zoning ordinances were violated, they need to say so, if it wasn’t in violation of the zoning ordinance, we're going to get one," Smit said.

"The board will continue to have conversations about are there any needed changes in our ordinances," Swayze said.

FOX 17 called Ada Bible Church for comment and they refused our request for an interview. Instead, they sent us a written statement saying:

"While we were operating within township guidelines, we desire to be good neighbors and will discontinue the use of the range immediately.  As a church, we desire to have the best relationship possible with our neighbors."

The Kent County Sheriff's Department said they never officially inspected the range and they also say they were never alerted to concerns from neighbors.