Despite their own concerns and those voiced by a neighbor, Baraboo planners granted preliminary approval Tuesday for construction of a gun store, manufacturing operation and indoor shooting range off South Boulevard.

The Plan Commission voted 4-1 to approve DEZ Tactical Arms’ request to build a multifaceted business on 10 acres next to Glacier Valley Ford. Sherry and Dwayne Zawistowski and their son Brian Zawistowski operate a manufacturing and assembly facility in Adams County, as well as a retail store in Wisconsin Dells. Their proposed Baraboo facility would feature retail sales, the manufacture of guns and parts, and an indoor range.

“We really want to have a place where customers of ours can use the firearms they might be purchasing,” Brian Zawistowski said.

Commissioners expressed frustration over a change to state law that limits municipalities’ authority to deny land use requests. Without an ordinance on the books outlawing weapons manufacturing and sales along one of its key arteries, the city couldn’t deny DEZ Tactical’s request without proving the business would threaten public safety.

“The burden is now on the city to show objectively, rather than subjectively, a reason to put conditions or deny the conditional use permit,” City Attorney Emily Truman said.

Rebecca Hoppe told the commission a gun shop doesn’t belong next to her family’s business, Glacier Valley Ford, or along a street city leaders have extolled as a gateway to Baraboo.

“We want this to all be a beautiful corridor,” Hoppe said. “I think putting a gun shop there is a bad idea.”

Commissioner Patrick Liston said he wasn’t enthused about the proposal, but didn’t see how the city could block it. DEZ Tactical must return with a site plan, which would be subject to setback rules and landscaping standards.

“I don’t see that we really have any options under state law,” Liston said.

Commissioner Tom Kolb cast the lone dissenting vote after peppering Zawistowski about the types of assault rifles the business makes.

“I don’t want another tin building on South Boulevard,” Kolb said.

Plans for the site remain under development, but the Zawistowskis have reached a deal to buy the land, contingent on getting city zoning approval.

“We want to present a nice building for the gateway to the city,” Zawistowski said.

Some commissioners said a shooting range would be a welcome addition to the city.

“I like the idea of an indoor range,” Commissioner Phil Wedekind said.

“That just brings people to Baraboo,” Commissioner Roy Franzen said. “It’s tough to find spots to shoot.”

DEZ Tactical sells custom rifles, parts and ammunition, including semiautomatic AR-15 rifles. It also offers gunsmithing, training and education. Zawistowski said thousands of gun owners and hunters live within a 20-mile radius of Baraboo, and there’s demand for an indoor range.

“There’s a very large interest in firearms and gun sports in this area,” he said. “Right now, there’s nothing to serve the needs of the public for six or seven months a year.”

Source: The Associated Press

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.