Proposed Gun Range Debate Continues in Greene County

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GREENE COUNTY, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- A proposed gun range continues to generate a lot of controversy in Greene County.

The county's Planning Commission deferred a vote on a final decision Wednesday night after dozens spoke during a public hearing on the matter.

Lyle and Tammy Durrer, who own the gun shop Big Iron Outdoors in Ruckersville, have applied for a special permit to allow a 20-lane shooting range on their property.

The range would take up approximately two acres of their land.

Lyle said the Greene County Economic Development Authority initially approached him with the proposal and he also saw a need in the community.

"The number one question in the gun shop is where can I shoot, there's no place to shoot," said Lyle. "Over 11 percent of the population in Greene County have concealed carrying permits. They don't have anywhere to shoot."

He and others in support of the range also argue the business would be beneficial to the county's economy.

The planning commission's chairman, Jay Willer, said having local business revenue is always a good thing to consider.

"It would be a business, and businesses generate money and generally we are very supportive of business and particularly business that comes out of a local interest," said Willer.

He said the commission will also weigh the public's concerns, the most prevalent of which are safety, noise, environmental impacts and possible decreased property value.

Greene County resident Carolyn Politis said she lives in the subdivision closest to the proposed gun range site and said she owns just one of the 160 homes that exist within a 1/2 mile radius of the Durrer property.

"We're talking about 20 guns being shot off at a exactly the same time and this is not just for one hour a day," she said. "They're proposing to have this from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at night every day and we feel that that's unacceptable."

Politis said she and other neighbors are also worried about the risk of airborne lead emissions after each gunshot.

"That lead will land on the ground and seep in through to the ground water and we're on wells so we're very concerned that the lead is going to get into our ground water, the water that we drink," she said.

Lyle said he's consulting with professionals on everything from acoustics to design.

"We're doing everything we possibly can to make this a safe range that is not loud and obnoxious," he said. "This isn't something you just go out and start building. This has to be done right, it has to be done 100 percent right. You can't cut corners on this."

Many of the people who spoke against the proposal said they're not against a gun range in general, but are opposed to this specific one's proposed location.

Politis suggested building it on another Durrer property location with fewer neighboring homes.

"I think it will be great in the right location and there are certainly other locations in Greene, I think, that would be much more appropriate for this sort of venture," she said.

Willer said despite this being a controversial matter, the commission will consider all the facts slowly and deliberately before coming to a reasonable decision.

"It's guns, and property values, and safety and health, and there's not much else you can throw in that mix to generate more interest or concern and passion," Willer said. "So it's going to generate a lot of passion and a lot of interest. My job is to help control the passion if I can and it's our job to listen to the facts, listen to the arguments, not listen to the passion."

The planning commission will take up the issue again during its next regular meeting in September.

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