Fear of competition halts plan for indoor gun range

September 14, 1995|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

The Westminster businessman who spent more than two years trying to develop the county's first indoor shooting range has called it quits, apparently because his financial backers fear too much competition from the outdoor range recently approved by the County Commissioners.

"The project is dead," said Westminster Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard. "The gun range at the Northern Landfill, and the competition there, was a concern to the financial people."

James Harris, owner of Red Hill Lawn Service, was able to persuade city officials to change Westminster's zoning ordinance to allow indoor shooting ranges earlier this year.

Mr. Harris first approached Westminster officials more than two years ago with his proposal to build an indoor range at a site in the Air Business Park on Route 97. Both the City Council and the planning commission worked with Mr. Harris' attorney to change the city's zoning ordinance, which until earlier this year had no provisions for shooting ranges.

The range, which was to have cost more than $500,000, would have been the county's first indoor shooting facility.

"This thing is gone, and it's a big disappointment to the Harris family and to everyone involved," said Charles M. Preston, Mr. Harris' attorney. "The financing for the project fell through."

He said that Mr. Harris had planned to buy equipment for the gun range from a company in Canada. With the less favorable exchange rate between U.S. and Canadian dollars, that equipment was going to cost more than Mr. Harris had anticipated.

Mr. Preston said he didn't know whether his client would try to build a range in the future.

Mr. Harris was not the first Carroll County businessman to propose an indoor shooting range; at least three previous attempts were foiled by county planners over the years. Mr. Harris' proposal was the first to win any sort of endorsement by public officials and nearby residents.

"Of all the projects that come before the planning commission and the City Council, only about 10 to 20 percent of them actually turn into reality," said Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan. He said that Mr. Harris' proposal was one of the first gun range ideas "to have virtually no opposition from neighbors."

Late last month, the County Commissioners -- after months of debate -- voted to build a public outdoor gun range at Northern Landfill. The range is to cost about $50,000, and will be paid for by the Carroll County Sportsmen Association. The county will run the range, which will not be built earlier than next spring, the commissioners said.

The decision was not without controversy. Many residents of homes near the landfill object to the range, as did their South Carroll counterparts when an outdoor range was first proposed for Hoods Mill Landfill in Woodbine.

Most of those opposed to an outdoor range said they were not against shooting ranges. Several people told the commissioners that an ideal solution would be construction of an indoor range.

The commissioners earlier this year briefly considered constructing a public indoor range, but quickly were dissuaded by the $500,000 cost. They noted during several public sessions that an indoor range had been proposed by Mr. Harris.

More than a half-dozen shooting range proposals have been derailed in the county over the past decade.

Proponents of the shooting range have argued that with the county's increasing suburbanization, hunters have fewer places to practice their sport. The number of private gun ranges in Carroll has dropped from 16 to 13 in the past few years.

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