10/15/2021 10:59:00 AM Outdoor shooting
range regs sent
back to planning
by DENISE MARTIN
Commercial outdoor shooting ranges, for some reason, have become the hot potato issue of land use discussions. The County Board sent the work of drafting an ordinance regulating shooting range permits to the Planning Commission a year ago, September. The Board recently reviewed progress on the issue (Story Sept. 23) and last week the Board looked over what’s transpired again, and sent the wording back for more work. They all concurred the ordinance is definitely not ready for a public hearing yet.
At the Sept. 15, 2021 Board meeting the commissioners discussed the shooting range issue, and decided on a split vote to direct the planning commission to include a prohibition on outdoor commercial ranges (story Press 23.).
Legal advice since has been that a “blanket rule” is beyond the county’s authority.
Board Chair Chris DuBose told the commissioners last week the planning commission members need better direction on what the County Board is ow willing to consider. Chair DuBose commented how he agrees that nobody wants shooting ranges to proliferate, but that there need to be restrictions and ways to regulate thise and currently the county has none. He said if the use is outright prohibited, a lawsuit would result and outdoor commercial shooting range uses will be “jammed down our throats” so it’s “more prudent it’s allowed but controllable.”
Commissioner Mike Robinson described firearms being heard extensively in his commissioner district and asked at what point a site becomes a commercial range? Robinson stated shots fired at a site miles away from houses, are clearly heard and he gets the constituent complaints.
Of the recommended distances for a range from residences, schools, churches, etc. all the commissioners agreed the recommendations so far are not enough. Commissioner Ben Montzka said he supports the opportunity to practice and get familiar with a firearm but he also doesn’t wish to end up with an ordinance that negatively impacts a person’s enjoyment of their property’s quietude and rural aspects like wildlife and being able to move about without fear of getting hit by a stray bullet.
“These (ranges) will affect future development” he added, and the landowners’ opportunities to profit and develop their parcels.
Chair DuBose said it is “all about balance” and he is confident wording can be drafted for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) that can set acceptable limits. The vote was unanimous to reconsider the recommended action prohibiting outdoor commercial ranges— and send the wording task back to the county planning commission and fine tune outdoor range conditions.
Commissioner Robinson asked about setting a range moratorium in place, but was told this is ill-advised. Asst. County Attorney Jeffrey Fuge noted acting on a moratorium was not on the agenda and there is a legal process on moratorium adoption and there hasn’t been adequate foundation to consider a moratorium at this time.