Court orders village to okay gun range


The Village of Lincolnwood has issued a court-ordered building permit for a 10-lane shooting range on the second floor of Shore Galleries, 3318 W. Devon Ave. Construction is expected to take about 4 months.

Village manager Timothy Wiberg said that the village has issued the permit on Aug. 3 in accordance with a court order. The village denied a building permit for the same facility in 2012 because village officials believed that a shooting range did not fall into a permissible use category in the village code, according to a press release from the village.

Shore field suit, and a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled in the favor of the village, and the business appealed the verdict, which was reversed by the First District Appellate Court of Illinois.

"The public may be upset about this, but there was no public hearing that was required with this because there was no zoning change," Wiberg said. "The judge ordered us to review a permit, and Shore has complied. It will be quite a shock to the community, but the judge took it of our hands and we had to issue the permit."

Wiberg said in 2014 that Shore Galleries applied for a permit to open a shooting range in the B-2 zoning district and that village staff determined that the gun range was not an appropriate use. The application was denied by the Lincolnwood Zoning Board of Appeals in 2012, which decided that the shooting range is not a permitted use for a "health club or private recreation," according to court documents.

Shore appealed the denial, saying that the decision should not have been made because a 2008 ordinance unambiguously permitted the shooting range. That prompted the Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees to amend the village code in 2012 to exclude shooting ranges.

"They essentially won the argument that, based on our code in 2012, shooting ranges were not prohibited," Wiberg said.

The village board has amended the code to make clear that shooting ranges are not allowed in the village, but the court order precludes the amendment from being applicable to Shore’s plan. Shore has complied with the building codes and zoning code provisions that were in effect in 2012.

Gun shop owner Mitch Shore has been trying to expand his business for years. In 1989 he applied for a special use permit to operate a shooting range on the second floor of its building, and that application was denied. In 1993 Shore applied for a special use permit, but the application was withdrawn before a decision was made. In 1997 Shore sought to move the firearms store to a location at 3310 W. Devon Ave., but that application was denied.

On November 18, 2013, the Circuit Court affirmed the board’s decision, stating that it deferred to the board’s expertise in interpreting its ordinances and agreed that the "health club or private recreation" provision does not include a shooting range within its meaning. The court stated that it did not need to determine whether the zoning ordinance was ambiguous.

Shore contended in the appeal that the zoning ordinance that was in effect at the time of the application unambiguously provided that a shooting range was permissible under the "health club or private recreation" permitted use provision and that the zoning application should not have been denied.

According to court documents, "it is undisputed" that the property in the B-2 zoning district, which was defined by the ordinance that was in effect at the time of the application as "A building or portion of a building designed and equipped for the conduct of sports, exercise, leisure time activities, or other customary or usual recreational activities, operated for profit or not-for-profit and which can be open only to members and guests of the organization or open to the public for a fee."

Shooting ranges have been held to constitute a recreational activity, even though not specifically enumerated in the ordinance, according to the Appellate Court.

"We, therefore, need not consider the extrinsic evidence submitted at the board’s hearing on the plaintiffs’ appeal, but rely solely on the plain language of the ordinance itself to conclude that the proposed shooting range is a permitted use as of right under the ordinance," the court said.