Gun club seeks OK for range

May 26, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

The Taneytown Rod and Gun Club can rent its Frederick County land for hunting, hold hunter safety courses and "could shoot in any direction and never hit a house." But it still can't get permission to build a range to hold organized shooting competitions.

Club officials are waiting again for Frederick Circuit Judge Herbert Rollins to decide on the adequacy of the dirt road leading to the club's 128-acre property on Shoemaker Road just outside Carroll County.

"The zoning board ruled the road inadequate, and then the Circuit Court decided that the zoning board should hear additional evidence from us about the use of the road," said Wesley D. Blakeslee, general counsel for the club.

"The board then heard the evidence but ruled against us anyway. We appealed it, and it's back to Circuit Court," Mr. Blakeslee said. "We believe that we have given sufficient evidence that the road could be in that use."

The zoning board rejected in April 1992 the club's request to develop 20 acres of the land to build a clubhouse and shooting range. The club sold their former site on Stumptown Road to the city of Taneytown in 1992.

"The county's point is that the road leading to and from the property is not adequate for that kind of use," a deputy county attorney in Frederick who was working on the case said at the time of the first appeal.

The board felt that Shoemaker Road, a gravel and rock road with several 90-degree turns near Starners Dam, was unsuitable for the club's use, he said.

Judge Rollins ruled last year that the zoning board should review the club's request, which it did last summer. The board rejected the club again -- upholding its original premise that the road was inadequate -- and the club appealed again.

Judge Rollins heard the case on March 17, Mr. Blakeslee said.

The club has held functions on the property -- a breakfast is scheduled for June 12, and a hunter safety course will begin June 14 -- but members are frustrated by their inability to hold shooting events, especially since a gun club is a permitted use on the land.

"If you can't put a gun club on this particular site, there's no meaning to the zoning ordinance," said Mr. Blakeslee, a Rod and Gun Club member. "You've got admittedly a gravel road, but the county commissioners are presumably aware of the road when they zoned the area to have a gun club a permitted use."

"We're completely remote," said Godfrey Miller, the club's president. "We could shoot in any direction and never hit a house."

Mr. Blakeslee said the board had ruled that there was no problem with putting the range on the site, only that the road would not handle the traffic the range would bring.

But there is no evidence that the range would have more impact on the road, Mr. Blakeslee said.

"We are impacting that road the way we will when we put that range in," he said. "If we're not holding shooting competitions, we're doing something -- having a breakfast, holding hunters safety classes, something.

"We don't have a public range or anything. We use the pistol range one or two days a month. We may shoot only one other day a month. But it's not like a public range where [nonmembers] come out to use it."

Mr. Blakeslee said he hopes the decision will be based on what he said the board never focused on: the lack of impact from traffic drawn by the range.

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