By Errol Castens
OXFORD – After several weeks of controversy over neighbors’ perceptions about noise and safety, a gun store owner will be able to build his proposed outdoor shooting range.
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors earlier this week approved the proposal of TGC Outdoors Inc. owner Joshua Gregory to build a rifle range and four pistol ranges, surrounded by 12-foot earthen berms built with 45-degree slopes.
In August, after neighbors asked supervisors to strike down the range, the board had remanded the proposal to the Planning Commission, with instructions for them to include a proposal for a fence around the ranges.
Planning commissioners voted 3-2 not to require the fence and returned the case to the Board of Supervisors.
Dorothy Goss said again Monday that the shooting range is a threat to people in her neighborhood.
“It’s in a community where there are children and teenagers,” she said.
Supervisor Robert Blackmon said he would never support a shooting range “in a residential area.”
Gregory, however, said the measured distance to the closest house is 900 feet away from the range site.
Reed Martz, Gregory’s attorney, said the site “is meeting and exceeding industry standards in all areas. We have a vested interest in making sure this is … an extremely safe project.”
When Blackmon told Martz, “You wouldn’t want that in your neighborhood,” Martz countered by citing another item on the same meeting’s agenda.
“That’s the choice that we make by living in a county without zoning,” he said. “I haven’t been here protesting the body shop, which is one street over from mine. I don’t want it there … but that’s the way we live, and those are the prices we pay for freedom.”
Supervisor Mike Pickens, who voted against the project last month, said that County Engineer Larry Britt had assured him “the berms would be adequate for the safety of the citizens around there.”
On a motion by Supervisor Chad McLarty and a second by Supervisor Mike Roberts, the plan passed 4-1, with Blackmon voting nay.
Gregory said the first set of pistol ranges could be open within two months after dirt work begins, a date that will be determined by financing and membership sales.
“We’re trying to have the whole project done by the end of the year,” he said.