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Haywood OKs outdoor shooting range moratorium

fr shootingrangeA moratorium on commercial outdoor shooting ranges took effect in Haywood County this week, temporarily halting any new shooting ranges from cropping up while the county crafts regulations to govern their safety and location.

The county currently has no rules for where an outdoor shooting range can go. Commissioners want to adopt rules for how close a shooting range can be to schools, churches and homes, as well as construction and design standards to ensure human and environmental safety.

The moratorium will last 60 days, giving the county breathing room to craft an ordinance without fear of a shooting range operator rushing in for a permit before the rules are in place.

Despite two public hearings on the proposed shooting range moratorium, there was almost no opposition. Only a couple people spoke against the moratorium.

“To my knowledge no such shooting range has been proposed, so what we have here is a solution in search of a problem,” said Paul Yeager.

But commissioners said that’s the whole point. Once one is proposed, it is instantly grandfathered and regulations crafted after the fact wouldn’t retroactively apply. 

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The outdoor shooting range rules now in the works are due to the tenacity of residents in the Francis Farm community, where an indoor shooting range and gun store have been proposed.

Residents repeatedly pleaded with county commissioners to intervene and protect their idyllic rural community from the intrusion.

While commissioners stopped short of doing anything to stop the indoor gun range, it dawned on commissioners that outdoor shooting ranges have inherent safety risks warranting regulations, and they decided to take up the issue.

“I don’t think it is appropriate for any property in the county to be subject to an outdoor gun range without being subject to some sort of ordinance that takes into consideration the surrounding property,” Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick said.

Residents of Francis Farm said they are glad for a partial victory, but still wish something was done to stop an indoor shooting range as well.

“I don’t think this is the right place for this to happen,” said Vicki Rogers, a Francis Farm resident.

Jule Morrow, the man who plans to build an indoor shooting range in Francis Farm, said he doesn’t plan to build an outdoor shooting range and never has, only an indoor one.

Rogers said she wishes Morrow would put it on other property he owns, namely a commercial-industrial site in Hazelwood.

“I would ask any of you who may be friends with him, if you have any influence on him whatsoever, that you encourage him to build it there,” said Janie Higgins, who lives across the road from the proposed site. “I ask you, please one more time to think about it. If it was in your front yard how would you feel about it?”

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