Indoor gun range OK'd in Eldersburg Opponents voice concerns SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

April 28, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Top Gun Indoor Range Inc. will open in the Eldersburg Business Center this fall after receiving approval yesterday from a Carroll County zoning board.

The three-member Board of Zoning Appeals made its unanimous decision after hearing 3 1/2 hours of testimony from opponents who said they feared for the safety of children in the area and supporters who said sportsmen need a place to target shoot.

Almost 30 people attended the hearing in the County Office Building.

Pikesville attorney Jay L. Liner and Arbutus homebuilder Joseph R. Twilley plan to open Top Gun, which will be the first indoor range in Carroll, in September or October, said their attorney, Clark R. Shaffer of Westminster.

Board member Claude R. Rash said he was convinced the indoor range would be safe and would fill a need in the area.

Board member Damian L. Halstad said the law required that the range be allowed at the proposed location in the industrial zone unless opponents showed that the range would have more adverse affects there than at another location in the industrial zone. Opponents did not do that, he said.

Board chairman William Law said opponents could appeal the decision to Carroll Circuit Court within 30 days.

Kathy Horneman and Shelley Counts, both member of the South Carroll Coalition, said the citizens group will discuss an appeal.

Coalition members opposed the range, saying it should not be so near a high school and a recreation sports arena popular with children.

Eldersburg Business Center is across Route 32 from Liberty High School. And Super Sports Inc., which has an indoor playing field, is in the business center next to where the range will be.

Westminster resident Rick Franz, who is involved with youth sports in Eldersburg, said he was concerned that bullets might penetrate the cinder block walls of the shooting range.

"It could be my child on the other side of that wall," he said.

Mr. Twilley said the block walls will be lined with steel and that no bullet could penetrate them.

He and Mr. Liner said they met with members of the citizens coalition last week to talk about the citizens' concerns. As a result, the business partners said they agreed to hire a security guard to patrol the parking lot during peak hours at the sports arena and to change the age limit at which a customer must be accompanied by an adult from 18 to 21.

Super Sports owner Mark Hughes opposed the range and said he has received calls from some customers saying they would boycott his business, which opened in January, if the range opens.

"I'm just not impressed with their knowledge of guns," he said of Mr. Liner and Mr. Twilley. "I don't think they know what they're getting into."

Currently, there is 60 feet of vacant space between Super Sports and the range, but Mr. Hughes said he is negotiating to lease the space to expand his business. Leroy Merritt, a Baltimore commercial and industrial developer, owns the business park.

Mr. Twilley, who will scale back his homebuilding business to work full-time at the range, said he has been shooting for hunting and recreation for 31 years. He said he will hire a trained instructor to teach gun safety courses at the range.

Mr. Liner, who said he met Mr. Twilley when he represented him in a legal matter about five years ago, said his partner has taught him to hunt and target shoot.

The range will be "state of the art" and will be "a safe and supervised environment," Mr. Twilley said.

"We are doing everything possible to make sure this business will be patronized by responsible individuals," Mr. Liner said.

The 6,600-square-foot range will have 16 25-yard lanes and will be open to the public seven days a week. Handguns, small-caliber rifles -- such as .22s -- and shotguns will be allowed, they said. Customers will pay $10 an hour, and guns, ammunition and other accessories will be for sale, they said.

The range will have an air filtration system and will be soundproofed, Mr. Twilley said.

"You could have a library next door and you wouldn't hear a thing," he said.

Carroll County Sportsmen's Association member Bradley E. Vosburgh of Westminster said development in Carroll has forced gun clubs to close.

"There's a real need for this," he said about the indoor range.

Eldersburg resident Jane Giro Maholchic said a shooting range might bring an increase in crime to the area because people might try to break into the range at night to steal weapons.

Steve Waagbo of Eldersburg said he worried about children being injured if a gun accidentally discharged in the parking lot.

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