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Virginia Ranges

We’ve studied all of the Virginia ranges listed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) on their web site wheretoshoot.org. There were a total of 114 ranges listed and here’s the breakdown:

  • 67 Outdoor ranges
  • 21  Indoor ranges
  • 20  Hunting preserves, archery range, not applicable (no outdoor range), or not found
  • 6   Duplicate listings

Download a pdf version here or click through the thumbnails below (with 1/2 mile rings) to see what they all have in common. Things like:
Remote locations
Obscured by trees or hilly terrain
Few homes nearby
Nowhere near a city center

There are a couple of examples* where homes have encroached upon an outdoor range, BUT note that the range was pre-existing and people took advantage of lower property values to live near a range. It was their choice to live with the safety and noise concerns. It wasn’t forced upon them.

* One example can be seen here

Property Values Update

PSC-001Our first look at the applicant’s claim that property values would not be affected by their proposed outdoor gun range was published on this blog earlier this month.

The Planning Commission’s public hearing for this outdoor shooting range is now over and we heard from the applicant’s realtor from Orange County. She read aloud the definitions  of the four essential elements of real estate values – demand, utility, scarcity, and transferability (D.U.S.T).

She said the value of real estate depended on those four things.

But speaking of demand…..

For real estate to be valuable, it must be in demand. Demand is first on that list because it trumps all others and must be present.

All other things being equal, would there be “demand” for a home near an outdoor gun range? We submit, and feel free to use your common sense here, that the demand for such a home would be very low and the vast majority of buyers would look elsewhere unless the selling price was well below market value.

We actually have a good example of this right now in our neighborhood adjacent to the proposed site. This home has been on the market for months and potential buyers are turning away by the mere threat of a gun range being built.

The realtor also stated that, “the property assessment and tax rate are established to meet the budget set forth by the county”.

Is the assessment and the tax rate established together to meet the budget? Or is the assessment made independently by the assessor followed by establishing a tax rate to meet the budget? The latter is true, so lower assessments mean higher tax rates if you want to get the same total tax money for things like schools.

For residential properties, the Assessor must determine actual market value. This is based on style, size, amenities, location, and other property characteristics, which is then compared to similar properties that have sold during the sales study period.

The realtor continued with, “market conditions drive assessment values, not the actions of neighboring properties”. Remember that demand is a part of market conditions and demand for property adjacent to an undesirable facility will not be high.

There’s a fairly well known academic paper published in  Ecological Economics (1998) by Stephen Farber titled, “Undesirable facilities and property values: a summary of empirical studies” that states otherwise. We think an outdoor gun range certainly fits in the category of undesirable facilities.

The realtor then went on  to describe how  two Orange County ranges and properties nearby were comparable to this Greene County proposal.

She only stated the total numbers of homes within 2 miles for both of the ranges, because those numbers fit their argument, knowing full well there was a significant difference within 1/2 mile – 160 homes vs 2-3. We like to emphasize the 1/2 mile because even the NRA states there will be noise issues within that distance.

Once again, this is the first gun range example they used:  the Piedmont Sportsman’s Club (PSC). Aerial photo from late Summer.
orange_treesWe contacted the former president of the club and found that it opened in the 1970s at the current location (Est. 1969).  You be the judge as to how it compares to the site that many in our neighborhood can see from their yards.

The phrase “middle of nowhere” might come to mind with respect to the Orange County range. Meanwhile, a person can walk 10 minutes to the Super WalMart from the Greene County proposed location.

There are homes in there somewhere. If you can find them, you have to then ask if they were there before the range, as our 160 homes are. Remember, the range has been there since the 70s. (Answer: they weren’t)

Factor in also that the nature of the range is totally different. The PSC is a private club of limited members with restrictions to join, minimizing the risk and volume of noise. Not 20-lanes, open to the public from 10 to 8 every day, with  off-the-street gun rentals or test-drives of guns.

To use a realtor’s phrase: this is not a good comparable.

What about the second one, the Orange County Sheriff’s gun range? This one’s just as curious, if not more.
At first, we thought we were looking in the wrong place since this was the wilderness of Orange County and  to compare it to their proposed site in Greene County with 160 homes, several school bus stops, and two churches within 1/2 mile and just 100 feet off US Rt 33 would be totally ludicrous.

It turns out that they were seriously comparing the two.

We thought we’d call the Orange County Sheriff’s office about their gun range, just to get some details. We spoke with Becky Jones, the Assistant Range Master. She was very nice and helpful.

It turns out the range has been there at least 15 years and they basically use it on an as needed basis for various types of training. It’s nothing like the daily use a 20-lane public range that’s open 10 to 8 will get.

Oh, and she said it was in a heavily wooded area without a home around. But Google Maps already told us that.

Back to the hearing….

Unless we heard her wrong, she called our information “flawed” in her presentation.

Something about how one house we used as a comparable was actually 5 miles away from the range?

In fact, all four home sales we used were within 1 mile of the PSC as the aerial photo below can attest.
orange_comps

We love maps at wronglocation.org, so we were surprised to hear her once again repeat her statement of there being an entire neighborhood “feet away” from the PSC in Orange. We can’t find them.  Perhaps she’s using terminology like “neighborhood” and “feet” loosely  once again. There are some homes just outside the gated entrance to the 251 acre PSC, but they are 3/4 mile away from the actual shooting site and they came well after the PSC  opened. We suspect these are the ones she’s referring to.

We sent her an email hoping to clarify some of these things. We hope to hear back. We still have not and it’s been months.

We’ve always said that you can’t compare potential loss of property value in a community where homes were built after a gun range was opened. The home values began depressed, since the range is already there. There are no before and after figures available to compare.

But she stated in the public hearing that she did use before-after values in her analysis.

Let’s review her 5 examples….

…where she states it proves her point that Orange County property values were not affected by their gun ranges.

Let’s ignore the fact that these ranges are well hidden within thick trees and buffered by terrain.

Let’s ignore the fact that the ranges have restricted hours and memberships and are nowhere like the 20-lane, open 10-8 outdoor range that we’re fighting against.

Let’s ignore the fact that these examples are at or over 1/2 mile from a gun ranges, while the Greene County proposal has 160 homes within 1/2 mile.

Let’s ignore all those important facts and see how these pan out.

We’re using her sales history figures and some more recent, updated sales from zillow.com.

18123 Wolftrap Court

Sold in 2013 for $93,100
Sold on 02/10/14 for $125,000
Distance from PSC gun range: 0.8 mi

FLAW: Gun range was present well before 2013. It opened in its present location during the 1970s.

17440 Mountain Track Rd

Sold in 2000 for $93,500
Sold in 2009 for $145,496
Pending sale in 2015 for $159,900
Distance from Orange Co Sheriff’s gun range: 0.5 mi

FLAW: According to the Assistant Range Master, it’s been in use since at least/before 2000. The fact remains that this is a sheriff’s office range that gets a small is half the size of a 20-lane, open 10 to 8 public range. Oh, and it’s heavily wooded and the terrain around it is spectacular for a gun range – bowl-shaped and very concealed.

15135 Madison Run Rd

Sold in 2003 for $129,900
Sold in 2008 for $215,000
Distance from PSC gun range: 2.9 mi
Distance from Orange Co Sheriff’s gun range: 2.15 mi

FLAW: Don’t even know what to say to this one. First, this property is quite a distance from both gun ranges, and second, both gun ranges were present before 2003. It’s a head scratcher.

14201 Cox Mill Rd

Sold in 2004 for $595,000
Sold in 2008 for $795,000
Distance from PSC gun range: 1.06 mi

FLAW: The PSC was present well before 2004.

13600 Misjordan Rd

Sold in 2004 for $730,000
Sold in 2014 for $2,150,000
Distance from PSC gun range: 2.03 mi

FLAW: Again grasping at straws here by going out over 2 miles to find a property. But not sure why. This is a farm with 212 acres and a 3 bedroom home on it. Bottom line is that the PSC was present well before 2004.

And there’s also her example of the Wolftrap Farm B&B. Again, we’re not sure how a place that’s 1.47 miles away from the PSC and specializes in weddings and events is in any way equivalent to a family living in a home adjacent to a 20-lane outdoor gun range. I’d also be willing to wager that this B&B gets business from the PSC – sportsmen spending weekends to shoot there.

In Summary….

This realtor simply gave bad information in a public hearing to the Planning Commission on a very important issue that affects peoples lives – safety, quality of life, investments, childrens’ futures.

To be blunt, she spoke in favor of something that can ruin peoples’ lives. We sincerely hope she writes to the county and corrects some of these statements.

A better location? We found one!

So, they want to build an outdoor shooting range 30ft from a suburban/residential zoned property and where there are 160 homes within 1/2 mile, among other disturbing details.

In most reasonable people’s minds, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Yes, the homes were there first.

Did they look around the county for a more suitable location that we can all use safely, without affecting so many families’ quality of life and home values?

They said they did.

Did they look very hard for a better location in the county?

Evidently not, because we just started looking for alternative locations the other day.

And we found one pretty quickly.

Actually, it was the first area that we looked at from a geospatial perspective. It affects at most 6 homes within 1/2 mile and only 4 homes within the 2 mile Surface Danger Zone (SDZ).

And it just looks right:

251 total acreage (2 parcels).

Undulating terrain which can act as a buffer.

Parcel shapes are more square so you can centralize the range.

Trees in every direction.

You can’t see homes (like the proposed location).

You can’t see Rt 33 (like the proposed location).

It’s not off a school bus route (like the proposed location).

No city center around (like the proposed location – you get the picture).

How did we find out about it?

It’s a property that was just posted by Greene County as being removed from the AFD (Agricultural Forestal District). Thus making it available for a Special Use Permit and a facility such as a gun range.

Added bonus for the applicant: his family owns the land!

Since a picture is always worth a thousand words, here’s a side by side comparison and a smaller scale SDZ map.

rville_midway_comparo2000px
Those yellow symbols are homes.

rville_midway_study_SDZ150dpi

Adjoining Neighbors

Let’s find a better location!

The gun range applicant evidently seems to think that the support of his adjoining neighbors is important.

That does, in fact, make total sense!

He made a point to mention that seven adjoining property owners supported a range at that location in the recent NBC29 report. And there are several documents in their package submitted to the Planning Commission that highlight the adjoining neighbors’ support.

But here’s the thing…

Many more adjoining property owners are vehemently opposed to the range. We count at least 15.

If you want to look at the numbers in terms of property boundary lines, there is approximately 10,639 feet of boundary that isn’t owned by the applicant’s family. Opposition to the range covers approximately 9,295 feet of that boundary. The math comes out to:

83% of adjoining neighbors are opposed to this, by property boundaries

Perhaps we should thank the applicant for pointing out the importance of neighboring support.

Why does he dwell on the seven? Not sure. I suppose he doesn’t think people will point out that the other 15 want no part of an outdoor gun range next door. Or maybe his seven are long-time neighbors/friends and more important to him than those of us who have been here 10 years or less? Do our property rights matter less?

We must also note that the seven who the applicant mentions or others who have not committed may be long-time neighbors who do not necessarily want a range there; People that may oppose the range but don’t want to come out publicly and ruffle the feathers of a longtime resident of the area. They may be pressured due to business relationships or loose friendships to not join the opposition to this location.

Regardless of the reason, it’s just not right to tout adjoining neighbor support when the vast majority of them are opposed to this proposal, as written.

Please. This is causing too much stress with the neighbors and the surrounding community. Let’s work together to find a better location.

signees_grad_symbols_20jul15_2000

No Blue Sky?

This is what a “no blue sky” shooting range looks like.

overhead_view_baffled_range
The baffles cover all the angles that a bullet can fly when shot from the firing positions under the covered shooting area. If the baffles are configured correctly and the shooter stays in the designated shooting position, he only sees baffles and no sky, hence the name.

Problems, in the form of errant bullets, can occur in several ways. One such way is if a bullet ricochets off of a surface within and exits the range area. Ballistic materials coating the baffled surfaces can mitigate this danger, but is it 100% effective? It must be 100% effective with homes so close. What about ricochets off pylons or footers or even off the ground? Side walls would also have to be coated with an absorbing ballistic material, otherwise they could provide ricochet surfaces.

Another problem can occur when a shooter steps away from the designated shooting area to fire, resulting in an errant bullet. This is more likely to happen in a public range where you have many more inexperienced shooters. You can see from the photo that there is lots of blue sky if you just take a small step out from that shooting area. A range officer can only do so much in terms of supervising, especially when there might be 20 people shooting at the same time.

Accidents do happen.

And they are more likely to happen with the high volume of 20 lanes and 7 days a week, 10am to 8pm shooting hours.

The question one must ask is, “why impose that risk on homeowners that are so close and so numerous to this range when a much better, more isolated location can be found?”

Throw in the factors of noise (quality of life), fear, and lost property values for hundreds of neighbors and you have to wonder why more of an effort hasn’t been put into finding a better, much better, location for a facility such as this.

Greene County Neighbors can help find a better location and we can even help gather funding for one. We’ve tried discussing these options and have put forward an offer to meet with a mediator. Unfortunately, the discussions were not fruitful and the mediator option was refused. Nevertheless, our offer still stands.

Next, we’ll cover where those errant bullets might land.

Turning a Real Estate Example on its Head

See Update here

Orange
Curiously, the gun range proponents are using this range in the wilderness of Orange County to compare to their proposed site in Greene County with 160 homes and several school bus stops within 1/2 mile and just 400 feet off US Rt 33.

So, the gun range proponents managed to find a real estate agent who was actually willing to state that a proposed outdoor gun range will not affect property values. The agent even pulled out an example in the neighboring county of Orange.

Are we surprised?

No, not really.

Every court case has a so-called expert to back each side’s case.

In this case, if we were to poll realtors on whether home values will drop significantly if you build an outdoor gun range next to them, I do believe it would result in what they call a landslide.

But do you really need to be a realtor?

As we said in our previous blog post, just use your common sense.

Home without an outdoor gun range next door vs same home with an outdoor gun range next door. Which do you think would sell for more?

And that’s just property values. Sell-ability is another issue. Do home buyers have on their checklists the added amenity of an outdoor gun range nearby?

This is the comparative example they use:  the Orange County Piedmont Sportsman’s Club (PSC). Aerial photo from late Summer.
orange_treesThe common sense eyeball test tells you that this is a great location for a gun range. Very different from the Greene proposed site surrounded by residential homes.

Common sense aside, let’s take a look at this example from a realtor’s perspective. Again, it’s actually a great example of a good site for a gun range and why the proposed location in Greene County pales in comparison and is flat out wrong. Some facts:

  • You can’t compare potential loss of property value in a community where homes were built after the gun range was opened. The home values began depressed, since the range is already there. There’s no before and after.
  • The PSC gun range was open well before the few homes in the assessment were built so the buyers had the advantage of the lower lot costs due to location. The hundreds of homes in Greene were there first!
  • The realtor describes a commercial B&B (Wolftrap Farm) as being “just across” from the gun range when in fact it’s 1.5 miles away . Needless to say, this proves nothing in terms of home values.
  • The PSC is a private club of limited members with restrictions to join, minimizing the risk and volume of noise. No off-the-street gun rentals or test-drives of guns.
  • It’s surrounded by thick, mature vegetation for a natural sound barrier. Three rows of newly planted evergreens are not an effective comparison.
  • Undulating terrain provides some masking and is more appropriate than the fairly high ground of the proposed Greene site that is only 400 unobscured feet from US Rt 33.
  • There is only 1 home in the half mile radius of PSC versus the 160 homes in Greene’s proposed location.
  • There are 340 homes in a 1 mile radius around the Greene site and the Orange assessment had to go 2 miles to get the same numbers.
  • The Orange County realtor’s assessment talks of “an entire neighborhood within feet” of the gun range? There are no homes within feet of the range, unless you mean thousands of feet. This is either a lie or playing very loose with words.
  • The Orange County realtor’s case study reflects values increased due to inflation or improvements made to the property, they have nothing to do with values prior to or after the gun range.

The chart below shows homes sold recently within a 1 mile radius of Piedmont Sportsman Club versus similar homes in Greene County. To assess the decrease in value of properties, we used the four closest and most recent sales near the PSC in Orange and compared them to similar properties in Greene County for sale.
On average the Orange County homes sold for 36% less than homes in Greene without a gun range.

Orange Property Value Distance from Range Comparable Greene Property Value % of Decreased Value
13324 Cox Mill Rd $57,000
Sold on 04/24/15
 0.87 mi from PSC 130 Morningside Ct $149,500 60%
18123 Wolf Trap Ct Built 1995 $125,000
Sold on 02/10/14
 0.8 mi from PSC 155 Westwood Rd $163,000 27%
18278 Verling Dr $169,900
Sold on 04/01/14
 0.93 mi from PSC 67 Farm Ridge Dr $224,900 25%
18164 Slate Hill $205,900
Sold on 09/03/14
 1 mi from PSC 889 Matthew Mill Rd $298,000 32%

Their study supports our research!

Read the update on the property values issue

The Common Sense Factor

bedroomJust stand on the proposed site and look around.

Does that look like a good location for an outdoor gun range?

Should you be able to see people’s homes?  Children’s playgrounds? School buses driving by? US RT 33 traffic? Cow’s grazing in a beautiful agricultural area?

Is that common sense?

Should you be able to hear kids getting off school buses just 1/4 mile away? Should you be able to hear the church bells of two churches just 3/4 mile away?

Is that common sense?

Should families sitting at their kitchen tables or sitting on their decks or porches be able to actually see the proposed range site?

Is that common sense?

Does your common sense tell you that would be the proper place to build an outdoor gun range?

We’ve looked and looked and haven’t been able to find a single, outdoor range in the US that was built after homes were established and in such close proximity to those homes. Including within line of sight of so many. And throw in the proximity to the city center, just 1/2 mile away. Oh, and they’re proposing 20 lanes, open til 8 shooting to include gun rentals. That’s a lot of shooting from potentially inexperienced shooters.

To be honest, you don’t even really need the geospatial analysis of the location, the real estate values analysis, the recommendation of the NRA (“noise will be an issue within 1/2 mile”), and the other compilation of facts about that poor choice of a location….

You just need to use some good ole common sense.

Clouding the Issues

signees_grad_symbols_20jul15_2000Big Iron Outdoors supporters have been battling the facts by not dealing with the facts. In at least a couple of ways:

1. Using the 2nd Amendment as a battle cry when it doesn’t apply. We’re not trying to take anyone’s fire arms away. We are a group composed of ex-military people, gun owners, NRA members, conceal  carry permit holders, and members of gun clubs /shooting ranges. We ARE 2nd Amendment supporters.

2. Name calling. Besides calling us whiners because we have the unmitigated gall to stand up to this crazy idea of a location and protect our families’ safety, financial well being, childrens’ future, and quality of life….they are calling us cowards because we’ve been leaving our fact-based flyers around the county.  We don’t have the guts to put our names on them, they say. They threw them straight into the trash, they say. That’s odd because we have our organization name, web site address,  and Facebook info on them. We also delivered these by hand and got out on foot to canvass local neighborhoods with our petition. So, what do they want? Individual names? Addresses? I hate to think the worst about people, but why?

Here’s an idea…why not actually read the flyer and try to counter the facts listed in it?

Oh, and to the guy who sarcastically said thanks for the flyer because it reminded him to come to the August 19 Planning Commission meeting to back the approval of this range? I say, bring it on. Perhaps he’ll finally hear some facts on why this is absolutely the wrong location and we all need to work together to find a good one.

Something tells me that the blinders will be on though. Driven by friendships and family ties and the intense desire to build a range in Greene County. That’s fine, as long as the people who make the decision aren’t the ones wearing the blinders and look at the facts.

Bottom line : we want a range in Greene County, too! Just not in that most inappropriate location next to homes, school bus routes, and the Ruckersville city center.

Flyer being circulated in Greene County

WrongLocation_flyer in pdf format.

Please show your support by printing this 2-page flyer (at the link above) and passing to your friends and neighbors. We’ve found that many people are like us and want a range in Greene County. But most are not aware of the facts surrounding this location and design, both of which are extremely poor.  Plus, our families and homes were here first!