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Local News

After residents complain, New Lenox to modify zoning ordinance for gun shops

An ordinance regarding zoning for gun shops and ranges in New Lenox will be delayed as it is amended to reflect the concerns of some New Lenox residents.
An ordinance regarding zoning for gun shops and ranges in New Lenox will be delayed as it is amended to reflect the concerns of some New Lenox residents.

NEW LENOX – An ordinance that was to have passed without further discussion Monday night regarding zoning for gun shops and ranges will now be delayed as it is amended to reflect the concerns of some New Lenox residents. Village officials have previously discussed the ordinance, which would allow gun shops and indoor gun ranges to be built in some commercially and industrially zoned portions of town,
at a work session in January, a planning and zoning commission meeting in February at which a public hearing was held, and at the village board’s last meeting March 13.

A provision requiring prospective gun shops and ranges to be 500 feet away from residential areas, schools, day care facilities, churches and parks was considered in the January meeting but removed later due to advice from legal counsel about possible constitutionality issues based on a court case Chicago lost recently because of strictly limiting available land.

However, after the ordinance was reported after the March 13 meeting, Mayor Tim Baldermann received 15 to 20 emails from concerned residents, he said Monday night, when the board met again.

Baldermann requested that the ordinance be pulled from the meeting’s consent agenda and amended, with inclusion of the separation requirement, and then brought back to the board for further discussion and a final vote.

With further research, Village Administrator Kurt Carroll and Assistant Village Administrator Robin Ellis were able to ascertain that the restriction would still make available about 59 percent of the zoned areas in question, Baldermann said.

“We all know where Chicago stands on guns,” he said. “And my impression is that they were being overly restrictive, making it nearly impossible for somebody to open a gun shop or range in the city and therefore they really didn’t have a basis for their restriction.”

Baldermann added that he is “supportive of that type of business … and that Second Amendment right. However, where government is responsible in my opinion is where there is some common-sense balance.”

Village Trustee David Butterfield made the point that the village could still be sued, to which Baldermann replied, “Yes, we can get sued for anything, but I think we can make the argument that we’re not trying to shut these businesses out.”

New Lenox resident Jennifer Kmitch, who said she represented a group of residents that “is supportive of gun laws that are sensible for a community,” spoke after the mayor’s comments.

“Gun violence affects everyone and every community,” Kmitch said. “But to the extent that the village can take certain steps to help prohibit people from getting guns in their hands that should not ... that is something we are supportive of and we wanted to make sure that you do that.”

Baldermann explained that, “zoning is something we can deal with and we think this is a common-sense approach,” but that only federal and state governments can determine actual gun control laws.

Megan Hillegass and Andrea Garritano, who were among several residents who attended the meeting, both said afterward that they contacted the village because they felt the board would move forward with the approval of the ordinance without the separation requirement, since they had not heard from residents. Both also said that they were in favor of stricter gun control laws.

“We understand that we don’t have a choice by law [about people being able to buy guns], so we want to make sure that we are doing this in the most responsible and safe way possible,” Hillegass said.

Garritano said that she felt that Baldermann “addressed our concerns completely and clearly.”

The amended ordinance will likely come to the board as a discussion item at the April 10 meeting and for a formal vote at the April 24 meeting.

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