Commission approves shooting range amendment

Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:28pm
By: Ben Nelms

The Coweta County Commission voted unanimously Dec. 15 to approved an ordinance amendment that would allow indoor and outdoor shooting ranges as a conditional use in industrial-zoned districts. The measure stemmed from a request earlier this year.

Explaining the recommendation for approval by county planning staff, Planning Administrator Angela White suggested that the ranges be designated for Industrial and Light Industrial zoning districts and approved as conditional uses on a case by case basis.

Referencing a Nov. 2 letter by Planning Director Robert Tolleson, White noted two major factors that surfaced during the department’s review of the proposal.

“The overwhelming zoning of those ordinances that we reviewed were incorporated into Light Industrial and Heavy Industrial-zoned properties. Taking that into consideration, the planning department felt that adding the Conditional Use Permit requirement would allow the board to carefully direct the business into the most applicable locations as well as specify requirements for everyone’s best interest. This would prevent shooting ranges from being placed in residential areas that might have been zoned Industrial when rezoning considerations didn’t consider the possible impact on future established neighborhoods,” the letter said.

White also cited the department’s review of the extensive National Rifle Association (NRA) handbook and the organization’s expertise in assisting communities in areas such as public safety, building design, zoning district compatibility, setbacks and buffers.

White said The NRA has staff in the Atlanta area that would be available to assist the county.

The shooting range request initially surfaced during the summer after CDM Investment Partners co-owners and Sharpsburg residents Harlan Hammack and Joe Mezzatesta met with Planning & Zoning staff and Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. Their idea was to construct and operate a 15-20 lane indoor public shooting range designed specifically for small arms such as handguns, shotguns and small caliber rifles. Mezzatesta at the time said the proposed CDM facility would conduct related training and education activities, including the use of non-lethal practice rounds made of alternative materials.

At the same board meeting gun store owner Rusty Morris said he was interested in establishing a 10-lane indoor shooting range with a retail component.

During the discussion of the issues, Commissioner Al Smith asked about a potential noise factor associated with gunfire at an outdoor range. White said that factor, and others, would be addressed using NRA guidelines.

Speaking during the public comments portion of the meeting, area resident Bob Briggs said that while he was in favor of the proposal, he said was not in agreement with increased government intervention on how residents could use their property or, potentially, be prevented from using it.

“We’re regulating ourselves to death,” Briggs said, telling commissioners that he and his guests fire weapons on his property. “My concern is that less government is better than more government.”

Commissioner Randolph Collins in response said he agreed, adding that “It’s different if you’re running a business and charging people to come there and shoot as opposed to having friends over the shoot.

The commission voted immediately after the public hearing ended, agreeing unanimously to approve the ordinance amendment.

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