Protests for and against indoor shooting range planned for Sunday
City Council to discuss rezoning change on Monday
*Updated January 3, see red text below

A protest has been planned and publicized for Sunday, January 3, 2021 at the former site of the Andersons Market on Sylvania Ave.  The issue at hand is the rezoning of that building, at 7638 W Sylvania Ave, to allow an indoor shooting range to operate on the premises.

While the protest was originally organized by residents opposing the rezoning, calls for a counter-protest quickly followed on social media, and the Lucas County Libertarian Party of Ohio has made a public announcement asking their members to come to Sylvania on Sunday in support of the shooting range.

local news

The rezoning discussion is item 6 on the agenda for Sylvania City Council's meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday January 4, 2021.

click to read agenda

Sylvania Police were informed of the Sunday afternoon event by organizers, and police have stated that they are "keeping an eye on things" as the discussion heats up on social media, in Sylvania Facebook groups in particular. see screenshot below 

In addition to posts on social media,  an open letter to City Council and the media and also a list of reasons for opposition were submitted by organizers of the protest. 

see letter and opposition reasons below

Along with online statements (see screenshot example above)  that multiple residents are claiming is intimidation, other similar experiences have recently been reported by those opposing the rezoning for the indoor shooting range.

 

One resident who opposes the rezoning claims that the owner of Midwest Shooting Center, David Sabo, contacted him.  The resident stated that Sabo told him he had searched online for him and found his contact information on Linked In, and then got in touch because he wanted to speak to the resident to persuade him not to oppose the rezoning.  They spoke for about an hour on the phone.  

Sabo provided the following statement to address the intimidation issues:

"We have been very open and supportive of those that have opposed our use.  We have made ourselves more than accessible, have answered many questions from many different people, allowed for countless tours of our Lima facility, and been available to the city 24/7 since this process started.  If there has been any intimidation it has not been from anyone associated with our company and in fact when we saw a "counter protest" start last night we got in immediate contact with the organizers and requested that they cancel the event and put out a statement along with their cancellation."

Sabo's statement sent to counter-protesters:

We appreciate the outpouring of support and willingness to be outspoken on our behalf.

That said, our request would be to cancel the counter protest this afternoon. First, generally, I think this is being taken as a gun control protest. That is not what this is.

To catch everyone up, Midwest Shooting Center has requested a special use permit to operate an indoor range located at the former Anderson’s. While the zoning is appropriate to retail firearms and accessories, a permit is needed for the range operation.

This process started back in late September. During this time Sylvania residents have been able to voice questions, concerns, support, and opposition to Sylvania City Officials. City Officials have done a great job at at sifting through all of the information being provided to them to discern whether or not this will be supported through a City Council vote.

We believe that the city had a firm grasp on the project and we will support whatever the outcome may be. Creating a big, noisy, event today is only going to add potential difficulties to their jobs.

If you feel compelled to voice support we encourage everyone to keep reaching out to us. The support we have felt through this process is unparalleled in any business endeavor we have ever been a part of and it’s been enjoyable getting to know everyone. Have a great Sunday with your families everyone!

-Dave Sabo, Midwest Shooting Center

Residents are still reaching out to council members with their concerns.  On January 3, Sylvania City Council President Mary Westphal responded to a resident's request to speak at the upcoming January 4 council meeting, with the following email:

"I have included the Mayor and the Law Director on your request.. Since Monday night  is a City Council meeting, the Mayor will be in the chair and will determine the process for additional community input.  As a point of information, the Public Hearing provides the opportunity for public input on zoning changes.  While the Mayor may allow for additional input, the goal of a council meeting is to conduct the city's business, not to offer a public forum, and thus limiting the public comment period during a city council meeting is often a part of the process.

 

-------, council members have tried to respond to questions from community members.  If you have not shared your questions with council members, please feel free to do so.  If you have already shared them, thank you.

 

Mary Westphal

Sylvania City Council"

See related:

Recent article:

Rezoning sought for indoor shooting range at Harvest Place

City of Sylvania council meetings/records:

www.cityofsylvania.com/government/city-council/meeting-records

Sylvania City Council official site:

 www.cityofsylvania.com/government/city-council 

 

UPDATE:  At least 60 protesters, including many Sylvania Southview students, showed up for the planned protest on January 3 to voice their opposition to the rezoning for an indoor shooting range in the former Andersons Market building.  Four counter protesters were also in attendance and voiced support for Midwest Shooting Center and engaged with protesters, though it remained a peaceful event.  One counter protester was seen displaying what appeared to be a rifle.  Local television news stations were also on the scene, interviewing attendees.  

Letter to media, mayor, and Sylvania council
 

On Monday, Jan. 4th, at 7:30 pm, Sylvania City Council will vote on a petition for a zoning variance to allow a Midwest Shooting Center (MSC) Gun Club to move into the Anderson’s Market building on W. Sylvania Avenue near King Road.  If the petition is approved, Sylvania will be welcoming a new gun shop, indoor shooting range (the piece of the business that requires re-zoning), and a members' lounge.  If it is not approved, the petitioners will most likely abandon the project altogether, since the shooting range is key to the success of their business.

In the materials presented to Sylvania City Council, MSC estimates the Gun Club will generate $9 million in revenue, yet they do not clarify how many of those millions will be in gun sales. More importantly, they have not provided any information on how many guns that means. Shouldn't Sylvania City Council be considering that significant piece of information before making a decision regarding a zoning variance? City Council is obligated to consider public safety as well as what is in the public interest in any and all decisions they make.  This Gun Club would exist and weapons would be sold within walking distance to a high school, a library, medical offices, businesses, places of worship and residential neighborhoods. How does that affect public safety? How would it be in the public interest?  Council knows that the Sylvania community prides itself on being a safe, peaceful, family-friendly environment.  But will they vote to maintain that? 

Since information on gun sales is critical to making an informed decision about the Gun Club, I emailed the mayor and every council member, asking them how many guns will probably be sold annually.  Only two council members acknowledged receipt of my email, and neither answered my question.  So I emailed all of them again. This time I got 4 responses, but still no real answer to how many guns.  One member, to her credit, contacted one of the owners. She got a response that wasn’t really an answer:  that they "will have less inventory than Pro Bass or Walmart."  That is not an answer.  Why are they able to estimate annual revenue but not gun sales?  Council appears happy to ignore this huge red flag and focus only on the zoning of the shooting range.  Why? 

Midwest Shooting Center supports gun culture and would grow it in Sylvania, Toledo and the surrounding area.  On their website under the "Classes" tab, you can read the chilling descriptions of their courses, such as “Open Combat" and "UTM Ground War."   To be clear, there’s more to consider than tax revenue and filling a rental space for the owners of the property.  The research on guns is clear - more guns means more violence.  We ignore that at our peril. 

Lastly, I also wonder if Council has truly considered the strong potential of attracting militia men from within a 50 mile radius to this state-of-the-art facility to practice their shooting, perhaps take the classes mentioned above, and possibly recruit like-minded others as well as new shooters, impressionable young people who may be groomed to join their ranks.  Do we really want Sylvania to be this kind of gathering place?  This concern and many others were raised at the Public Hearing on 12/21/20, at which 20 Sylvania residents testified against the zoning variance while only 6 spoke in favor of it. 

As members of the media, I urge you to please find out what you can about Midwest Shooting Center's business and let the public know before the Monday vote.

 

Why do you not want the gun shop and range here?
- We are not against the gun shop, it is the range that is not welcome in my backyard.
- What is the city council plan for mitigation of lead and arsenic poisoning- contaminants that are released by the firing of a bullet, as the range is in my backyard will Midwest Gun pay for this?
- Noise pollution - after all the sound barriers and acoustics, there is a noise level that a gun releases and shots have a negative psychological component, has the effect of this on the health younger children in my neighborhood considered, who will be responsible for the ill-effects
- People will open carry their own weapons from the car to the range, how can you ensure that my child who is walking in that area to get a hair-cut will not see a person carrying a gun from their car to the range
- Range fires are an issue with the fire department having to get specialized equipment and personnel, who is responsible for the costs associated
- Range suicides cause additional on police, law and are a physiological nightmare for people in the community
- Traffic is already an issue here, adding 200 more cars daily are going to make it a bigger issue
- Properties around gun ranges devaluate 3-5%, two issues here, will the neighbors be compensated for this loss, and how will the city recuperate the loss of tax revenue due to property devaluation.

 

The City Council meeting when the rezoning will be discussed takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Monday January 4.  

 

Due to COVID, City Council meetings have been virtual since December 7, 2020.  The meetings will be available to view on the City of Sylvania YouTube Channel,  call the Sylvania City Council Clerk for further information:  419-885-8930.

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