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Council sends gun range proposal back to Port Authority

After receiving a recommendation from Port Authority to reject a proposal from former council member Jason Sebion and business partner Bill McKinley for an indoor gun range in the former Central Research Laboratories, City Council members Monday sent the proposal back to Port. 

It was a full house as dozens of people filled the council chambers, hoping to offer their input on the proposed business. Council members, however, reached a consensus before public comment could be taken, citing inconsistencies in Port’s real estate sale procedures. 

Council President Dean Hove said that when he bought property from the city, he met with the Port’s Finance Committee and Real Estate Committee before addressing the full board — similar meetings have not taken place with the developers of Red Wing Firearms and Gun Range.

“There was a lot of discussion among both the Port Authority and City Council at that time to make sure that we did the same thing for every single customer who came it,” Hove said. “I am just wondering why that procedure was not still followed.”

In a series of emails, Port Business Development Director Shari Chorney and Sebion, who stepped down from the council in December to pursue the gun range, discussed setting up a meeting to review business plans and look at alternative locations for the business.

Sebion replied that he and McKinley were willing to meet, but asked the committee to have suggestions ready that met their criteria, including a dimension of 320 feet by 150 feet and a concrete roof. In his final email, Sebion declined a meeting with the committee.

“Since the real estate committee has chosen to go against council instructions, it is our decision to wait until after the full Port Board meets to discuss any alternatives,” he wrote. “If your group has an alternative property in mind for our project, please sund us the address and complete information on the sites. We will take the time to research the alternative and set up a meeting.”

Real Estate Committee members said it was the size rather than the nature of the proposed business that failed to meet objectives outlined for the property.

“We did not feel that it fit the comprehensive plan,” said Peggy Rehder, a member of City Council and the Real Estate Committee. “This is not, was not, has not been a pro-gun or anti-gun discussion, it’s about the size of the proposal, what it would bring versus what the covenants say that property is supposed to be used for.”

Port President Scott Adkisson said the price Sebion and McKinley offered in their proposal — $1,000 for 4.5 acres of the property— also factored into the Port’s recommendation against the proposal.

“Your good faith offer has to be something reasonable,” Adkisson said. “I think most business people here, if they took a look at that proposal, would not agree that it’s an in-good-faith proposal offered for that property.”

Sebion said he shares several council members’ frustration at the inconclusive meeting and further delay in decision making.

“At this point in time, we as a partnership need to sit down and see what we want to do, if we’re even going to go back to that step,” he told the Republican Eagle. “We’ve had two months already when they’ve had the opportunity to talk to us, they just haven’t. We were willing to show all the information, the Real Estate Committee chose not to meet with us.”