A Finksburg man who wants to open an indoor shooting range near Westminster took his proposal before the county Board of Zoning Appeals yesterday, stressing that he will do everything he can to make it safe for customers and neighbors.
Herbert Starlings, who has been shooting as a hobby for 30 years, wants to open the range in part of a former knitting factory at 535 Old Westminster Pike.
"The purpose of this facility, besides providing my income, is to provide a training facility. The worst enemy of any handgun enthusiast is the unsafe shooter," he said.
About 50 people attended the hearing, most of them residents of the Pine Knolls development, near the proposed shooting range.
Several residents questioned Mr. Starlings about his plans for security, noise control and recovery of lead dust from bullets.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph B. Shaum, whose home on Ann Drive adjoins the parking lot of the proposed range, retained attorney David Bowersox to oppose the project and represent them at the zoning hearing.
Mr. Starlings, who works for AT&T as a regional account manager but plans to work full time at the shooting range, said he selected the site for its central location. He also said the former Westminster Knit Corp. factory is an ideal site because it has thick masonry walls on all four sides, adequate parking and room for a 25-yard range.
He said planned safety measures include a range officer to monitor all shooting activities, rules prohibiting unholstered firearms and an "electronic eye" that would set off a warning alarm if anyone stepped into the firing area.
Mr. Starlings said the range would be primarily for target handguns, semiautomatic pistols and .22-caliber rifles. He said he plans to open a small section to sell guns and ammunition and would offer gun safety and personal-protection classes.
Mr. Starlings said he is working with National Rifle Association specialists to develop the most effective soundproofing for the shooting range. He also said he would comply with federal standards regarding the recovery of lead dust from bullets.
Despite these assurances, neighbors of the proposed shooting range expressed doubts about the project.
Susan Lette wanted to know what Mr. Starlings would do if "a drunk or anybody fired a gun at one of our homes."
"I don't know how to answer that besides calling the police," he said. "Some things are beyond my control."
Mr. Starling said he expects most of his customers to be from law enforcement.
"I put my life on the line every time I open the place up," he said. "It's not in the best interest of my business to allow some hoodlum to come in wielding a gun."
Questioned by Mr. Bowersox, Mr. Starlings said he has never managed a shooting range and hasn't done a formal study of how much noise one would generate.
"I'll do everything I can to make sure noise is not a problem," Mr. Starlings said.
Three members of local gun clubs testified in favor of the indoor range, saying that many of the county's outdoor ranges have been shut down because of residential development.
Bradley Vosburgh, president of the Carroll County Sportsmen's Association, said his group has been trying for six years to establish more shooting ranges.
"There is no safe place to shoot, and gun sales have gone out of sight," Mr. Vosburgh said.
The hearing on the proposed shooting range will continue at 9:30 a.m. June 23 in Room 07 of the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster.