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Flyer for the School Board

This is the content of the 2-page flyer that was passed out to the members of the Greene County School Board at their meeting on Wednesday, 14 May 2015. Also passed out was the real estate analysis and infographic. Carolyn Politis covered the talking points.

Please say NO to a Gun Range Near Homes!

Big Iron Outdoors is proposing a 20 lane outdoor firing range in Greene County.

Range location & design DO NOT meet NRA range development guidelines.

range_1mile_v2

We Care

Greene County Neighbors are concerned residents whose goal is to make our home, Greene County, even better. Many of us are gun owners, concealed carry permit holders and life long members of the NRA. We would in fact welcome a well-designed shooting facility in the right location. However, this design & location has many problems that would actually hurt the entire county, not just neighbors close to the proposed site.

 


Webpage:                          http://wronglocation.org
Facebook Page:              https://www.facebook.com/relocaterange
Email:                                 relocaterange@gmail.com
Donate:                             http://www.gofundme.com/nofiringrange
Sign The Petition:           http://tinyurl.com/kag25px



Fact Sheet

Location

  • Over 160 homes, 2 churches, and at least 4 school bus stops within ½ mile.
  • Over 340 homes within a 1 mile
  • Near a major school bus route and 300 yards from one of the busiest school bus stops in the county. Bus numbers 4, 7, 37, 51 and 54 travel within 1 mile.
  • Increased traffic on RT33, causing further delays in daily travel on a road that is already a bottleneck at RT29/RT33.
  • To be located on only 2 acres of agricultural land. Developer is requesting a Special Use Permit to change the rural nature of the area. Adjacent to an agricultural area with working livestock.
  • On mostly open land with no terrain obstruction and visible from many homes and Rt 33.
  • The NRA advises to locate a range where it can thrive, not where it will be the focus of complaints and potential closure.

Design

  • Open air range that is partially baffled. By design, it cannot contain all ricochets or unintentional or negligent discharge Placement & design are not adequate to guarantee errant bullets will stay within property lines. No engineering plan or safety study provided to show otherwise.
  • Noise from up to 20 firearms of various calibers, affecting hundreds of residents’ quality of life. No professional sound study submitted to county. The NRA Range Source Book states that “studies indicate noise complaints are likely when homes exist within 1/2 mile of a facility.”
  • No containment for airborne lead which can pollute ground water for nearby residents and livestock. A Rippin Run tributary stream is only 400ft away. No environmental impact or terrain analysis provided.
  • Accidents do happen and even one unintentional discharge, with homes and children nearby, can devastate lives and have legal ramifications.

County Impact

  • Estimated gain in tax revenue for county: $4,536
  • Estimated loss in tax revenue for county from devalued homes:
    • Within ½ mile – approx 30% decrease: – $39,717
    • Within 1 mile – additional 15% decrease: – $42,778
    • Total revenue loss within 1 mile:  -$82,495
  • Less tax revenue will mean less money for Greene County Schools. This does not only impact Ruckersville – all schools would be impacted.
  • Homeowners’ property value losses will be crushing, affecting the financial well-being of many families who were there before the range proposal. Homes within ½ mile stand to lose over $5 million in value.
  • Decreased house prices impact the entire county due to decreased value of comparables.
  • Nearby homeowners will limit home improvements, negatively impacting local businesses.
  • Estimated only about 5-6 jobs will be
  • Things like this will make Greene County a much less desirable place to live.

Bad mix: Gun Ranges & School Buses

Bus_routes
Yellow lines represent Greene County school bus routes for both Ruckersville Elementary School and William Monroe Middle and High Schools.

There is a major school bus route 400 feet away and two school bus stops within about a quarter mile from the proposed outdoor shooting range.

Yes, proponents will say that the range is oriented so that shooting will be away from the nearby school bus stops. That is true, but that isn’t the issue. After all, the builder claims that no bullets can ever escape the confines of the range anyway, right? For the sake of argument, we won’t dispute that here.

What is a concern though, is all the firearm traffic moving through the area. People with firearms going in and out of the facility while children are nearby is a recipe for disaster.

Accidents Happen

People will be carrying firearms from their vehicles to the facility and vice versa. If we’re to believe how popular this range will be, there’s the distinct possibility of people milling around with their firearms waiting for a shooting lane to become available. Range customers may be showing off their firearm to a friend in the parking lot.  That parking lot is actually going to be closer to the school bus route and the childrens’ bus stop than the range.

The builder also plans on having gun rentals.  There is no requirement for background checks on gun rentals. That can lead to inexperienced shooters handling guns from the gun shop to the shooting range. No background checks can result in rentals to the mentally unstable and those with criminal backgrounds.

There are numerous nightmare scenarios when you combine many people, unvetted and/or with questionable experience, with many firearms in one place.

Accidents happen.

And an accident that happens in a setting like this, with residential homes and children nearby, is inexcusable. Particularly when the residents and children were there first. And particularly when the county had the chance to reject the proposal. It’s not only a recipe for tragedy and disaster, it’s a recipe for major legal action.

Oh, and let’s dispense with the weak argument from proponents of this range that accidents can happen anywhere. “You can slip in your shower and get killed”, they say. Well, everyone has to take a shower (hopefully). Not everyone has to have a gun range in their backyard. There are better locations.

The Common Sense Factor

I’ll venture to say there isn’t another outdoor gun range in the United States this close to pre-existing school bus stops and homes.

It’s just common sense. You don’t do that.

But this entire proposal just doesn’t make sense, unless you only look at it through the soda straw of the builder’s wishes and convenience.

As one person said, all you have to do is stand on the site and look around. There are dozens of homes around, playgrounds are visible, school bus stops are a stone’s throw away, cows are grazing just feet away, a highly trafficked US route 33 is within a few hundred feet. It just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

This is not an appropriate location for a shooting range. Please find an alternate, more suitable location.

Media Coverage

Links to media coverage of this issue. We’ll add more to this post as they become available.

Aug 11, 2015  NBC29 Report: Greene Co. Neighbors Opposing Proposed Shooting Range

The Greene County Record: Gun range proponents: It’s a safe place to shoot; opponents: It’ll lower home values

Aug 5, 2015 NBC29 Report: Greene Co. Man Continues to Seek Approval to Build Shooting Range

Greene County Record Letter to the Editor: Many in Greene opposed to proposed gun range, 2 April 2015

Greene County Record: Foes take aim at gun range; neighbors make opposition known to proposed Ruckersville site, 2 April 2015

Greene County Record Letter to the Editor: Potential gun range in wrong spot, 26 March 2015

Greene County Record: Big Iron Outdoors considers plans for shooting range in Ruckersville, 20 March 2015

NBC29 story in early March 2014 about the proposal

Other Cases Nationally

Some links of interest to other cases of gun ranges that were opposed by the residents of their communities nationally.

Not all, indeed perhaps none, match the circumstances of the shooting range they’re attempting to build within our established residential community, but one could see elements of each that apply to the Greene County situation.

Please feel free to email me links to other cases or post to the comments section below.

Property Values:
Note that many of these involve much quieter and safer indoor ranges.

Other cases nationally:

Lead Contamination:

Some interesting bits here about noise ordinances:

National Shooting Sports Foundation

In Plain English

Will Greene County abide by their own ordinances and reject this proposal?

Under Article 16 General Provisions of the Greene County Zoning Ordinance (Latest Revision 13 December 2011), there is a section 16-2 on Special Use Permits.

To most who read them, the guidelines and standards that are described are a slam dunk for denial of this proposal. It’s pretty straightforward. Everything from (a) to (d) goes against this idea of an outdoor shooting range near residential homes that will change the character of the community, adversely affect the use of the neighboring property, and definitely hinder development and impair the value of adjacent land/buildings.

The Article 16 guidelines are as follows:

The Board….shall consider the following guidelines and standards:

a. The use shall not tend to change the character and established pattern of development of the area or community in which it wishes to locate.

b. The use shall be in harmony with the uses permitted by right under a Zoning Permit in the zoning district and shall not affect adversely the use of neighboring property.

c. The requested or related conditions shall be such that the use will not hinder or discourage the appropriate development and use of adjacent land and buildings or impair the value thereof.

d. Due consideration shall be given to the suitability of the property for the use applied for with respect to trends of growth or change; the effect of the proposed use upon the community;
requirements for transportation, school, parks, playgrounds, recreational areas; conservation of natural resources, preservation of flood-plains, and encouraging the most appropriate use of the land. (Revised 1/11/05)

Yes, property values would be adversely affected. It would change the character of  a quiet, rural agricultural and residential area. And it would hinder the development  of nearby properties, unless an advertisement like this might appeal to you:

For Sale:  Two acre lots in a pastoral, rural area adjacent to a dairy farm, Blue Ridge Mountain views….and an outdoor, 20-lane gun range right next door!

I would imagine that the Planning Commission would use the same guidelines as the Board.  And everything in the written guidelines above would seem to imply that there’s no way that they could send this forward to the Board with a recommendation to approve. Unless, of course, they don’t follow their own guidelines.

A Special Use Permit is what is requested in this shooting range proposal. It is to be reviewed by the Planning Commission which shall hold a public hearing, review the application, and send a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

Something that I didn’t realize is that a second public hearing is held.

After review by the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors shall hold a public hearing and decide applications for Special Use Permits.

So, the citizens of this community may have to go through the stress of fighting this proposal not once, but twice. That’s if the Planning Commission sends it forward.

In the end, another possibility outside of an outright rejection or approval:

The Board, in granting a Special Use Permit, may impose such conditions agreeable to the applicant as it may deem necessary in the public interest.

I can see a possible condition being to build the range entirely indoors with close to 100% sound mitigation to residential neighbors or find another, more suitable location for the proposal. The latter being the best for the community.

Noise Ordinance Information

Some information passed on by a supporter.  They’re on Greene County noise ordinances, which may be helpful in fighting this proposal.

Greene County Noise Ordinance (pdf)

And here are the most relevant sections:

(a)
Nighttime. No person shall permit, operate or cause any source of sound to create a sound level in a residential area or within any residential building during the hours between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in excess of 55 dBA when measured at or outside the property boundary.
(b)
Daytime. No person shall permit, operate or cause any source of sound to create a sound level in a residential area or within any residential building during the hours between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. in excess of 65 dBA when measured at or outside the property boundary.

Also related:

Virginia Noise Statutes (pdf)

NBC29: Greene Passes Animal Noise Ordinance (Aug 2009)

Snippets from the Greene County Comprehensive Plan

Proposed location is approximately where black arrow points. Just outside the “Mixed Use Residential” area of Future Land Use for Greene County and within the Rural Area that includes many residential homes.

This Comprehensive Plan lays out a future land use vision that includes a discrete growth area and the retention of significant rural areas.

Prevailing community wishes are for the county to retain its rural character and to preserve and promote the county’s agricultural heritage.

Guidelines for the Rural Areas call for the voluntary use of clustering and conservation subdivisions as well as creative ways to buffer rural development from the passerby.

Adopted 2010 Greene County Comprehensive Plan

Area Suitability Study

Greene County has a GIS Mapping link on their web site, so we can assume they have a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) professional on hire or access to one.

GIS is a powerful tool used by our national government agencies to support the military, police forces, and by local governments in a variety of planning.

By looking at the geographic data on display on the mapping page, it appears that data is available with which to perform an area suitability study with GIS software. It can show which areas in Greene County are most suitable for a business like a shooting range. Parameters such as distance from homes, schools, churches and major roads, access to roads, easements, parks, environmentally sensitive areas, and terrain can be used. All these variables are thrown into a GIS and it returns an overlay of suitable areas.

This powerful tool should be utilized by Greene County or the business owner to find a suitable location for a shooting range.