Neighbors may take aim at proposed firing range

May 24, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Herbert Starlings says he has done all he can to reduce neighbors' concerns about his plan to open an indoor shooting range in part of a former knitting factory near Westminster.

But Mr. Starlings, a Finksburg resident who has been shooting as a hobby for about 30 years, expects opposition when his request comes to the county Board of Zoning Appeals tomorrow. The hearing is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. in Room 07 of the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster.

The proposed shooting range -- in the former Westminster Knit Corp. factory at 535 Old Westminster Pike -- is Mr. Starlings' first venture into the business. He is a systems consultant for a communications company.

"There's such a strong need in this area," Mr. Starlings said. "Years ago, when I had my first .22 [rifle], you could go anywhere to shoot. Now that there's a housing development over every hill, it's not safe."

Mr. Starlings said the range would be primarily for handguns and small-bore rifles such as .22s. He said the former factory is well-suited to the purpose because it has thick masonry walls and adequate width for a 25-yard range.

The factory closed in February 1991 after 45 years in operation. The owner, United Merchants and Manufacturers Inc., blamed foreign competition and a slowing economy for financial problems that forced it into bankruptcy in November 1990.

Mr. Starlings said he heard concerns from neighbors about potential traffic through the parking lot, both in conversation and at an open house he sponsored in April to explain his plans. He and the building's owner, Edmund Baxter, plan to install an 8-foot stockade fence to decrease traffic noise and to protect privacy, he said.

Jerome Kappes, an Ann Drive resident whose home is near the proposed shooting range, said he did not feel the use is appropriate near a residential neighborhood.

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph B. Shaum, whose home at 500 Ann Drive adjoins the parking lot, retained a lawyer to oppose the planned shooting range. Mrs. Shaum refused to discuss the reasons for their opposition, but attorney David K. Bowersox said his clients object because of the range's proximity to their home.

Bradley E. Vosburgh, president of the Carroll County Sportsmen's Association, said the range's prospective neighbors shouldn't worry about teen-agers hanging out in the parking lot.

"Once it's there, people won't even know it," Mr. Vosburgh said. "It's going to be safer than having a 7-Eleven there."

Mr. Vosburgh said the range's parking lot wouldn't attract loiterers because many of the customers would be police officers honing their skills for competitive shooting.

Mr. Vosburgh said the range would provide a shooting site for people who need a place to practice after taking introductory firearms courses. But the sportsmen's association is still pushing the county government for an outdoor range.

"People take hunter safety classes and the next thing they ask is, 'Where can I go to shoot?' " Mr. Vosburgh said. He said that most local rod and gun clubs have two-year waiting lists.

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