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Haywood County passes outdoor shooting range rules

haywoodNew rules are now in place to govern commercial outdoor gun ranges in Haywood County.

Commissioners approved the ordinance unanimously Monday after County Manager Ira Dove presented an updated version that incorporated several changes based on public feedback. Dove said the biggest concern from residents was the fear the ordinance would pertain to private ranges as well, but he assured everyone that the ordinance only governs money-making shooting range enterprises. 

“It doesn’t include law enforcement ranges and it doesn’t include turkey shoots or educational events,” Dove said. 

The initial draft of the ordinance required commercial shooting ranges to use the National Rifle Association’s guidelines for operating a safe range, but after hearing feedback from residents, Dove said the ordinance now allows commercial ranges to use guidelines from any recognized association. 

Residents were concerned about a stipulation in the original draft that stated a commercial range would need to be a quarter-mile away from any other existing occupied buildings. People argued that standard would be impossible to meet, so Dove said the requirement was changed to 1,000 feet instead. 

“That can be waived by the planning board if you can mitigate the safety concerns,” he said. 

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While a requirement of a 300-foot buffer from neighboring property lines will remain in the ordinance, Dove said there will be an exemption process through the county planning board if an owner can show the range will adequately absorb sound as not to disturb neighbors and properly contain ammunition. 

“You can apply for a waiver if you can provide a proper plan to the planning board,” Dove said. 

If existing commercial outdoor ranges want an exemption from the new regulations, Dove said they had to provide a site plan to the county within a 120 days after the ordinance goes into effect. The county isn’t charging any kind of fee to submit a site plan. 

“You don’t need an engineer but you have to have a site plan so we know where it is located,” Dove said. “No fees will be charged to provide that document — we’re not trying to make money on this.”

While existing ranges can get grandfathered in, they must apply for a permit and adhere to the new ordinance if the range sells or is expanded. Dove said his staff worked hard to incorporate feedback from residents to create a business-friendly approach to the gun ordinance. 

Prior to this ordinance, Haywood County had nothing in place to regulate how and where an outdoor range could be set up. 

Commissioner Michael Sorrells said the intent of the ordinance was not to prevent ranges from opening but to make sure they are safe for everyone involved when they do open. 

“We want to make it as easy as possible to allow someone to continue to have these things,” he said. 

The discussion over outdoor ranges came up a few months ago when the Francis Farm community was outraged over an indoor shooting range being proposed in their neighborhood. Residents begged commissioners to stop the range from coming to their community, but commissioners’ hands were tied because the county doesn’t have any land-use regulations in place. 

They didn’t think an indoor range posed a threat to anyone’s safety, but they did start to have concerns about unregulated outdoor ranges. The commissioners then enacted a 60-day moratorium on commercial outdoor shooting ranges while they crafted an ordinance.

“I think this is reasonable and it protects the interest of all,” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick. “It protects that church out there in the community from having a gun range next to their property and provides a safe place for people who want to shoot their guns as well as people on surrounding properties.”

He urged all existing commercial ranges to go meet with the county planning department to get grandfathered in if they didn’t want to have to aide by the new regulations. 

Commission Chairman Mark Swanger said the people he’d spoken to about the ordinance viewed it as a common sense measure that was needed to protect people from the noise and ammunition coming from these facilities. 

During public comment, Francis Farm resident Vicki Rogers thanked the commissioners for passing the commercial outdoor shooting range ordinance but encouraged them once again to address the indoor shooting range issue.  

Several gun-right advocates were present at the meeting but none of them made comments to commissioners regarding the ordinance. 

For the entire ordinance, visit

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