Indoor rifle range gains support Project favored over an outdoor site

February 23, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

The county should look into changing its zoning law to allow indoor rifle ranges, two Carroll commissioners said yesterday.

An indoor range would require less land than an outdoor range, Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said.

The commissioners discussed the issue after receiving a letter from a Westminster man asking for the change in the zoning law. James E. Harris Sr. of the 1100 block of Brehm Road said indoor rifle ranges present "new recreational opportunities."

Reached yesterday, Mr. Harris said a corporation he's involved in is interested in building a private indoor range. But he said the issue is an emotional one and he didn't want to comment further.

In August, the commissioners asked the county Recreation and Parks Board to look into building an indoor range as an alternative to a proposed outdoor range at Hoods Mill Landfill that drew opposition from neighbors.

County staff members found that a 25,000-square-foot indoor range would cost about $1 million to build.

Yesterday, Mr. Lippy said that estimate was too high and that an indoor range could be built for $300,000 to $400,000.

The Recreation and Parks Board said last year that a shooting range should be a high priority among county recreation projects. The Carroll County Sportsmen's Association has been working with the county for several years to find a suitable site for an outdoor range.

Members say private shooting ranges are overcrowded and shooters need places to practice and train.

Current zoning law allows outdoor rifle ranges as a special use in agriculture and conservation districts if the ranges are 1,000 feet from homes, schools, churches or other institutions.

In his letter, Mr. Harris suggested that indoor ranges be allowed in agriculture, conservation and industrial districts and that no special distance requirements apply.

"There is considerable public demand for this type of recreational facility in Carroll County," he wrote. "However, indoor ranges have not been constructed largely because the distance requirements are too great to be economically feasible."

Another Westminster man, Glen A. Swain, was turned down twice in 1990 when he sought to build an indoor range.

He proposed building a range in a former East Baltimore Street bakery in Taneytown and was turned down because the use was not allowed under city zoning.

Mr. Swain also proposed putting a range in a building in the 1900 block of Bethel Road, southeast of Westminster. The county Board of Zoning Appeals denied his request because the site did not meet distance requirements.

In its decision, the board said it would have denied the request even if the site had met the distance requirements because an indoor range was not an appropriate use for the land and did not contribute to the "orderly growth of the community."

Commissioner Donald Dell said yesterday that he asked Director of General Services J. Michael Evans to give Mr. Harris' request immediate attention.

Mr. Evans was not in the office yesterday, but Chief of Zoning Enforcement George L. Beisser said the proposed zoning change will be sent to the county's Zoning Ordinance Overview committee for review.

The committee will make a recommendation to the Planning Commission, which will make a recommendation to the commissioners. If the commissioners want to accept the zoning change, they will have to sponsor a public hearing to receive input, Mr. Beisser said.

Most counties in the Baltimore area allow indoor ranges, he said.

"I think it's something that is needed. It's something that can be controlled a lot better than outdoor ranges," Mr. Beisser said.

Most indoor ranges are built from modular units, and the biggest expense is insurance, he said.

George Oswinkle, an owner of Gunpowder Indoor Pistol Range in Bel Air, said his range measures 7,200 square feet and is in a building made of standard 12-inch blocks. The business has been open for 10 years.

It has 14 firing lanes, and guns that shoot handgun ammunition are allowed, he said.

Noise from the shots can be heard outside, but Mr. Oswinkle said, "It doesn't hurt your ears."

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