MOUNT AYR — Mike Zickmund and John Earnshaw shared their research on the 1881 Ranch at the Mt. Ayr town meeting on Monday, July 1st. The proposed shooting range, clubhouse, and off road track will occupy the majority of the almost 300-acre parcel in Jackson Township that the Ranch hopes to secure. The duo stated that the founders are a father and son duo from Naperville with extensive credentials and background in both business and the military. Newton County is a nearby rural area where they want to put their sporting playground.
It was reported that, the 1881 Ranch will be a private club catering primarily to their members, running year round from sunrise to 10:00pm. One of John Earnshaw’s questions was how is it going to benefit Newton County. He reported that studies show a 4% drop in property value when similar facilities have been approved. Earnshaw’s property is adjacent to the potential site for the ranch. He and Zickmund are concerned about safety as there are kids, families, and school bus routes in the area. They also added that Jasper County residents should also be aware of this proposal since Jackson Township borders Jasper County.
The 1881ranch.com website advertises that it is located in, “Northern Newton County, 1 hour from the 294 & 55 junction.” The website also states that it is set to open in the fall of 2019. According to Zickmund, the ranch was denied permission to build around the Lake Village area, so they changed their name and are trying to obtain permissions further south. On the Petition to Rezone, there is no name listed for the ‘petitioner.," said Zickmund.
Mount Ayr board member, Rich Warne, questioned the group because of the hidden identities and sneakiness. On Tuesday, July 16, 7:00 pm, there will be a meeting at the Mt. Ayr Community Center to discuss the situation further. There is a petition for rezoning, and land negotiations are taking place. It was encouraged that now is the time to act. As of yet, no zoning classifications have been changed, nor has any land been officially purchased by the 1881 Ranch proprietors. Legal counsel will be present at the July 16th meeting to advise concerned citizens on how to speak to commissioners and other deciding entities (zoning board). All are encouraged to attend, not just Mt. Ayr residents.
Zickmund and Earnshaw also encourage people to write letters to the commissioners who will ultimately grant or deny the club proposal. The first meeting about the 1881 Ranch is set for Tuesday, July 23rd at 8:00 pm, at the government center. The Mt. Ayr board supports the community in wanting to stop the 1881 Ranch from moving into the county. There is a petition in circulation that opposes the Ranch that people are encouraged to sign.