A conditional use permit request that would allow a shooting range near Lonedell has nearby residents fired up.
More than a dozen people voiced their concerns during a public hearing before the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday night, saying a range in their neighborhood would be noisy and dangerous.
Robert Dix, of St. Louis, requested the CUP so he could build a private sportsman’s club on 210 acres off of Highway 47 south just before Soaring Hawk Road in the Lonedell area.
The club, which Dix said would accommodate about 400 members and their guests, would include outdoor ranges for archery, rifles, handguns and skeet and trap shooting as well as a 3-D archery course through the woods. Dix also is proposing a guest lodge, paintball fields, hiking trails and fishing and boating activities on the property’s 7-acre lake.
The facility also would be available for special and corporate events, Dix said.
Mark King, who has lived next to the property of the proposed shooting range for 17 years, said his biggest concern about the facility would be the noise.
King said he lived a mile from a shooting range near the Little Indian Creek Conservation Area and could clearly hear shots being fired all day long.
“You’ve been talking about decibels and acceptable levels,” he said, simultaneously pounding on the microphone. “Is this acceptable to you? That’s what I heard a mile from my house, not next door with multiple shotguns going off at the same time. My dog is going to have to stay inside because he’s scared of the noise. I’m going to have to stay inside. What gives them the right to make me stay in my house?”
Greg Walter, who lives just north of the proposed sportsmen’s club, was concerned about property values.
“If I was to try and sell some of my property to someone to build a house, do you think they would buy it, knowing there was a gun range next door?” he said. “I don’t think so. We won’t be able to give our houses away.”
Walter also was worried about the safety of his grandchildren and the welfare of his livestock.
“My grandkids run through the woods,” he said. “My cattle are out there in the field by my house. I don’t know where these people will be pointing those guns.”
Other residents were concerned about the safety and welfare of the Boy Scouts who visit Camp MacClossen, located on Soaring Hawk Road just south of the proposed range.
Joseph Kaiser, an officer and director of the Youth Benefit Corp., the organization that oversees Camp MacClossen, said on weekends during nice weather there can be anywhere from 20 to 40 Boy Scouts at the camp.
“This has always been a very quiet and peaceful area,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why we established our camp there.”
Kaiser said because of safety concerns, they close the camp during the rifle deer hunting season in November.
“I couldn’t sleep at night if anything happened to someone, especially a young person,” he said. “Our property and camp area is located immediately south, and we urge the zoning commission to reject the proposal as it was presented.”
Several other people who spoke said they were worried about boys wandering off the camp and into the line of fire at one of the shooting ranges Dix is proposing.
“Boys will be boys,” one man said. “They run.”
Helen Jackson, who lives on Soaring Hawk with her husband and 4-year-old son, also voiced concerns about the safety of the shooting range.
“A few people around here know my son because he’s a wanderer,” she said. “Yes, it’s my responsibility to watch my son, but he is a little Houdini. It only takes one bullet, or one arrow and my son is harmed, or one of my pets.”
Gwen Stein, who lives on Highway 47 across from the proposed shooting range, believes constant and persistent gunfire would have an effect on her cattle.
“Our largest, 20-acre field is across the highway from the shooting range,” she said. “From information written by experts on livestock handling, noise should be kept to a minimum because animals have sensitive hearing. Loud noise disturbs the cattle and may initiate a fearful response.”
Dix told the commission he would do everything possible to keep noise levels to a minimum, including building a pavilion over the top of the rifle ranges with acoustical material much like that used in gymnasiums. He said trees and other vegetation surrounding the ranges also would provide a sound barrier.
Dix said he also had a licensed acoustical engineer come to the property and perform several sound tests while shooting different types of guns simultaneously.
“At the peak it registered at 72 decibels,” he said. “That’s similar to a car going 60 miles per hour.”
The proposed club would not allow shooting before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m., Dix said.
Dix also addressed safety concerns, stating that all shooting ranges would have berms behind them and there would be someone on staff at all times to monitor the guests.
The shooting ranges would be further into the property, with paintball courses and hiking trails being closest to Highway 47 and Soaring Hawk Road.
“You know people are talking about 50 to 100 people a day that I said might be there,” he said. “We might have 50 to 100. We might have 30 to 40 in a classroom for four or five hours and at the end of the day they might go out and shoot some sporting clays. But there’s no 100 guns that are going to be shooting at one time out there.”
Anybody who understands sporting clays or trap knows that there will be one person shooting from the box at a time, Dix said.
“On a good day, maybe you will have four or five shooters,” he said.
Dix became noticeably agitated when he rebutted some of the earlier comments about Boy Scouts and other children possibly wandering onto the property.
“We’ve heard we should build a fence because the Scouts aren’t responsible enough supervisors to keep their Scouts on the property that they belong on,” he said.
As for the well-being of the cattle, Dix said he grew up on a farm and shot guns and has never seen cattle stampede and has never lost one to a stray bullet.
“The cattle would lift their heads on the first shot, then go right back to grazing,” he said. “They might have some spooky cattle in this part of the country.”
The planners will send the CUP request to their review committee and it is expected to make a decision by the next meeting in April.