Appeals court rules county cannot use Coloma property for gun range

The Michigan Court of Appeals has issued a ruling regarding Berrien County's use of the property on Angling Road in Coloma as a gun range.

The court of appeals ruled the county's construction of a new building on the property did not make the gun range a legal use of the property.

Residents filed suit and received a permanent injunction in 2008 barring the county from using the property as a gun range.

The county didn't use the property again until after they were unable to use the Coloma Rod and Gun Club in 2012.

In August 2013, the county passed a resolution to construct a shooting range building at the outdoor range property.

After an open air, pole-barn type structure was built on the property, the plaintiffs who received the permanent injunction filed a motion requesting the county be found in contempt for violating the injunction.

In 2014, the court ruled in favor of the county and modified the injunction to allow the county to use the facility as a firing range.

The residents appealed and the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on September 6 in their favor.

The court of appeals stated the construction of a building on the property for classrooms did not make the shooting range legal.

"The county’s argument has the tail (a small structure) wagging the dog (the previously constructed and utilized range)," Judge Murray wrote in the decision. "Or, stated differently, the county used an after the fact building in an attempt to statutorily shield its non-conforming land use."

The appeals court found in favor of the plaintiffs and ruled the lower court erred in allowing the county to use the property as a gun range.

The court also reversed the lower court's modification of the permanent injunction, but confirmed the lower court's ruling the county was not in criminal contempt of court for the violation of the injunction.

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey released this statement, “Due to the 2-1 ruling by the State of Michigan Court of Appeals, I am suspending any further shooting at the Berrien County Training Facility until further direction from the Circuit Court or any result from a possible appeal. “

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