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Lee supervisors to conduct hearing on shooting range

WALTER LITTRELL • May 15, 2007 at 12:09 PM

JONESVILLE - The Lee County Board of Supervisors will conduct two public hearings at 5 p.m. today prior to the start of the board's regular monthly meeting.

In the first hearing, the board will take input on a request by Allen McKnight for a special use permit to allow recreational vehicles in a mobile home park. The property is located on the west side of Route 421 near the Powell River Bridge at Woodway.

The second hearing is to take input on a special use permit request by Danny Hensley, who hopes to construct a rifle and pistol shooting range in an agricultural zone. The property is located on the north side of Route 612, just west of Route 615 in the Horse Hollow community.

Both requests have been recommended for approval by the Lee County Planning Commission, although a number of local residents did express their opposition to the firing range at that body's public hearing last month. The proposal has also generated petitions from both sides that are being circulated in the county, and a number of letters to the editor in the local newspaper have opposed the range.

A letter from Hensley to supervisors states that the range is intended only to serve the needs of the shooting community and to serve as a training facility for those wishing to obtain concealed weapons permits and police agencies that have a need to practice and certify.

Hensley states that all shooting will be supervised by competent personnel into bullet traps or berms constructed to conform with National Rifle Association guidelines and that most competitions will be of a one-day nature, although some two-day events may be held if the range becomes popular enough. Approximately seven matches would be held per year, he said.

Hensley also provided supervisors with a packet of information addressing lead exposure and contamination from firearms ranges, an outline for containment of noise, and the requirements for safely building bullet traps.

His letter contends that opposition to his planned facility is based on unfounded fears and assumptions. Hensley said ridges in the area will provide sound buffers for neighbors, and the ridges would also serve to catch bullets that may escape buffers on the range. He also takes exception to the distance from the range to nearby homes, saying most are three-quarters of a mile away, with the exception being that of Clyde Scott, whose dwelling is 1,800 feet away. The Covenant Mount Bible Camp is one mile away - not across the road as some opponents of the range claim, he contends.

Scott has also provided the board with a letter outlining his position opposing the range. His concerns include increased traffic on the narrow road to the site, increased dust in the valley and noise. Scott also mentions worries that drugs and alcohol will be used at the facility and that violence and parties will spread to neighbors' yards. In another letter, Scott's wife expresses concerns of environmental hazards from the bullets. And in another letter, their daughter expresses concerns about her parents' safety due to stray bullets.

Other letters opposing the range are concerned with safety of children at the Bible Camp, noise, decrease in property values nearby, and increased litter in the community due to increased traffic.

Supervisors will also consider amending the Courthouse Security Fee Ordinance to increase the fee from $5 to $10 after July 1. The fee is assessed as part of the criminal or traffic court costs against a convicted defendant.

The board will also discuss a request from the town of Pennington Gap regarding a waiver of back taxes on blighted property. A memo from County Administrator Dane Poe states that the town manager has asked if the board would waive taxes on blighted property in the town limits if the town acquires the property in order to clean it up.

"They do not necessarily have a plan for what the property will ultimately be used for, as the major concern at this time is to eliminate the blight," the memo states.

Supervisors will also discuss an appointment to the Industrial Development Authority, a proposed cable franchise agreement, a resolution for interim financing for courthouse renovations, and funding for Kids in the Creek Day.

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