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Yellow Mountain residents complain of shooting range

jacksonSome residents of the Yellow Mountain area near Lake Glenville are hoping Jackson County commissioners will step in to address the impacts of a shooting range that’s sprung up in the sparsely populated mountain neighborhood.

“I just think it’s time to have an ordinance because this problem is going to happen again somewhere in Jackson County,” said Doug Smith, who lives about a half-mile away from where Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club leased land to offer skeet shooting, archery and axe-throwing for its members. “You don’t need that much land. Five or 6 acres, and someone could open a shooting range.”

Smith and Marianne Vines both live on Yellow Mountain Road, adjacent to Zeb Buchanan Road, where the range is. The two residents say they’re tired of the bang-bang-bang emanating from the property during shooting hours and want commissioners to adopt an ordinance requiring shooting ranges to be at least half a mile from the nearest residence. 

They’re not alone. 

A Facebook page created in April by Tim Womick, who owns land just above the range but lives in Cashiers, has garnered 69 likes in support of its title cause, “Keep Mountain Top Skeet Range Away from Yellow Mountain.”

“It is appalling that the intrusion on that community continues as it does,” Womick said. 

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Rob Duckett, general manager at Mountaintop, said he’s been caught off-guard by the opposition.

“I said (to the neighbors), ‘The most we would ever do it would be Tuesday and Friday afternoons.’ They seemed fine with that,” Duckett said. “Since then, there’s some other people in and around Yellow Mountain and other people that are not in Yellow Mountain that have taken this on as a cause.” 

The range operates from 1 to 5 p.m. on those two days, Duckett said, and only during the summer — the season is over now. The range isn’t open to the public and is instead offered to Mountaintop members on a spot the club leases for activities such as skeet shooting, shooting targets with pellet guns, axe throwing and archery. 

“We shoot periodically when we have events or members want to go over there,” Duckett said. “The folks on Zeb Buchanan Road who you would think would be affected are very supportive of the whole endeavor.”

“If any one of them (close neighbors) said, ‘Rob, this is negatively impacting my life. We need you to stop it,’ I would stop it in 2 seconds,” Duckett said at another point in the interview. 

Womick disagreed with that assessment. 

“A gentleman who lives beside it in his 80s told me that it wasn’t that bad if he took his hearing aids out, but he said, ‘My grandchildren are coming next week,’” Womick said. That’s the conversation that prompted him to form the Facebook group, he said. 

From Smith’s house, the sound is tolerable right now, especially since the wind isn’t often blowing in a direction to carry the sound his way. However, he said, if the range would present a problem if it were to expand its hours. 

“To us it’s not real loud, but if it was on Saturdays and Sundays and wind was blowing from the southwest, we’d like to sit on the deck and watch the birds and enjoy the peace and quiet,” Smith said. 

Smith pointed out that this isn’t the first time a shooting range has caused controversy in Jackson County. In 2005, a shooting range in Cashiers proposed relocating to the Tilley Creek area, a move most residents opposed. The planning board began work on an ordinance, but when the range opted to move to Transylvania County instead, the effort was abandoned. 

Womick said it’s time to resurrect the effort. 

“That someone else’s desire for — for lack of a better word — amusement can impact the quality of life of someone else is not only appalling, it is real,” Womick said. 

Duckett, meanwhile, maintains that he’s been working hard to be the best neighbor he can be. The range uses steel shot rather than lead to alleviate environmental concerns, and he’s ordered silencers for the guns, a process that takes months due to the federal reviews involved. He’s said he’s also committed to shooting only in the summer and only for two afternoons a week. 

“If we were negatively impacting anybody’s life we would cease and desist, but that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Duckett said. 

Womick, meanwhile, argued that Duckett shouldn’t have opened the range at all until he had the silencers in hand. 

While some commissioners are sympathetic to the neighbors, it’s unlikely the county will consider an ordinance any time soon.  

“We have so much already on the list I don’t have it down for discussion right yet,” said Commission Chairman Brian McMahan. 

The Jackson County Planning Board is in the midst of going through the hefty Industrial Development Ordinance. Meanwhile, commissioners are getting ready to decide on amendments to the U.S. 441 planning ordinance and to a revision of the Mountain Hillside Development Ordinance, and the county’s planning director position is still vacant. Another planning project won’t get underway anytime soon.

But that doesn’t mean commissioners are turning a deaf ear. 

“I feel for the community,” said Chairman Mark Jones, who represents the Cashiers area. 

He said he plans to take a drive through the area to get a feel for how sound travels there and hopes that the silencers, once delivered, will bring a peaceable end to the conflict. 

“I hope that we can have some protection for citizens and at the same time encourage the activity that a shooting range brings to a county or municipality,” Jones said. 

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