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Residents Complain Of Gun Club Noise

By Scott Nicholson

Some residents of the Castle Ford Road area want the long-established Watauga Gun Club to ship out or go indoors but members point out they were there before increased development.

Tom Stallings, who has built two houses near the gun club, also lives in a nearby trailer and plans to build his own house there. Stallings believes growth and development around the gun club has created noise and safety concerns.

The club was formed in 1961 on Appaloosa Trail. The group purchased the property in 1971, and later purchased adjoining property to stretch the site to 22 acres.

At the time the gun club began its activities there, only one house was in the area, according to gun club range officer Wayne Green. He said that house has been sold six times since then, but said that wasn’t unusual for the county.

However, growth has crept into the area, and several subdivisions are under development nearby.

A couple of neighborhoods sit on the hills above the gun club’s grounds, and a number of Habitat for Humanity homes have been built around the site.

Stallings acknowledges that the home owners knew the club was there when they built or moved there, but sees it as a growth issue. “Times change,” he said. “With progress like it is, they should move it or put it indoors, or do something to keep the noise factor down. It’s just time for it to be soundproof.”

According to Green, the club has 130 members, including some local law enforcement officers. “The members are glad we’re there,” he said. “What’s bad for some people is good for some people. We’ve been there a long time, and if they knew it was there and it bothered them, they shouldn’t have moved there.”

Green said normal operating hours for the range are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The gun club did rearrange some hours to accommodate two nearby churches.

On Wednesday, the club closes at 6 p.m., and on Sunday it operates from noon until 6 p.m. Green said the club also shuts down if the churches are holding funerals or weddings unless a scheduled competition is taking place.

“You certainly can’t hide a gun club,” said Green, who has been a club member for 20 years. “Some people don’t like us, some people do.”

R.L. Asbill, who lives on Roxanna Street, said “It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe people in Watauga County would put up with something like this. It’s a noise violation every day. It needs to be moved somewhere outside of this (area). I can’t understand how people who live here let it go on.”

Gary Hoyle, publicity officer for the club, said it provides a recreational outlet as well as a training facility for law enforcement certification. He grew up with guns in the Dakotas, and has been a club member for over a decade. “We’ve had people complain about noise here on certain occasions,” he said. “We do get pretty noisy out here sometimes. When we have a state pistol match with 170 shooters, we’ll shoot 30,000 rounds on a Saturday.

Hoyle and Green both said that some people have been grateful that the gun club has helped keep down property values compared to the rest of the county, so they could afford to own homes and still be relatively close to Boone.

“A lot of our neighbors have been supportive of the club,” Hoyle said. “We have several neighbors who are members.”

No county zoning rules are in place to regulate shooting ranges. The club also operates within the county noise guidelines, which restricts violations between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Watauga Planning Director Joe Furman said there has been growth in the area, but not as much as in other parts of the county.

When the club was formed, there were no safety regulations or guidelines for laying out a shooting range. The National Rifle Association (NRA) issued its own guidelines for ranges, and some federal rules were subsequently adopted, particularly regarding indoor shooting ranges.

Hoyle said a federal act provides some protection for shooting ranges, requiring those losing lawsuits against clubs to pay both parties’ attorney fees.

Hoyle said all new members undergo safety training before using the range. During competitions, the club employs up to 50 safety officers. The targets are placed before soft banks of dirt.

Hoyle said there’s always a chance of accidents, but said the course is designed as safely as possible.

“We’ve never had a person shot,” Hoyle said. “We go through 100,000 rounds a year.”

The gun club carries liability insurance, funded in part by the $100 in annual dues that each member pays.

The club hosts three large events each year, as well as a number of smaller competitions. Some officer training is carried on after dark for certification purposes. The club brings people from as far away as Venezuela, according to Green, and shooters from many states take part in the competitions. The club hosts some youth-oriented programs as well.

“We feel like we provide community services,” Green said. “We have stringent standards. We’re shooting into the mountain, inside berms. It’s never been a problem.”

Stallings and Asbill are also concerned about lead from bullets contaminating soil and water. Green said lead already existed in the ground and that a nearby stream was tested by George Sudderth, former water and sewer director for the town of Boone, and that the water showed no increased lead content.

Stallings said the club could reduce noise by stacking hay bales around the range or planting trees.

Green said he understood the point of view of those who complained, and said the club hoped to make some improvements, though it couldn’t afford to place all operations indoors. A quonset hut at the site is used as a pistol range in cold weather.

“I can see both sides,” Stallings said. “I know we need recreation. I’m a hunter myself. I know it would be very controversial, because the police officers use it, but it’s time to move it out away from people.”

http://www.mountaintimes.com/mtweekly/2005/0714/gunclub.php3

*FW Note:

Welcome to the new Amerika. Even when you knowingly make a poor choice, it's always someone else's fault, and the law should require them to do something about it.

:roll:
 

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Well, the gun club was there before the "new" people moved in, so I can say one thing to the "new" people DWI... Deal With It. They knew the gun club was there, but yet they still wanted to move there. :roll:
 
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