Dear Goochland Board of Supervisors:
Here’s why the community opposes the Orapax sporting clay shooting range conditional use permit (CUP).
First, let me state that this is not an anti-gun vs. pro-gun debate, or even gun-safety issue, despite the current national spotlight on the Dec. 14th tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in
Many residents of Newtown, CT. own guns, support
our Second Amendment rights, participate in recreational shooting sports or
hunting, and are even members of the NRA. In fact, my wife and I both proudly
started our professional careers working at the NRA’s headquarters in Goochland
County Fairfax County, VA.
Second, this is not a new residents vs. longtime residents debate. The long list of households opposing Orapax’s CUP application are a mix of residents that have lived in Goochland all their lives, residents that have lived near Orapax for 20-plus years, and residents that have moved from suburban areas to Goochland is just the past 5 to 10 years, including the 90-plus families in the Holland Hills neighborhood adjacent to Goochland High School.
Additionally, the people who spoke in opposition at the planning commission meeting ranged greatly in age and various other demographics. We are not just new residents to the county who are trying to make Goochland less rural and impose more suburban zoning ordinances. Quite the contrary, we moved to Goochland to get away from that. We will not be complaining about the sounds and smells coming from farms next. We all enjoy our country-style living in
. But a sporting clay shooting
range open 7 days per week from 9am to 5pm with up to 1,200 shots fired in a
single day is not what we intended to hear from our homes when we chose to move
here. Goochland County
Third, we have no issue with Orapax’s existing hunting reserve activities. That shooting noise is limited and sporadic. In hunting, if you miss the target after your first shot, the target has most likely hidden, ran, or flew away so as to no longer be a target to be shot at again. In sporting clays or any other target practice sport, you simply pull another clay or set up another target; in essence, continue to shot as often as you want. Residents neighboring the Virginia Department of Corrections shooting range facility in Goochland County and residents neighboring the Boy Scouts’ yearly clay shooting fundraiser have given testimony to residents neighboring Orapax of what we are in for if the CUP application is approved.
Professional and technical sound studies are nice, but should not be solely used to determine nuisance to the community. Measuring equipment does not account for the human factor. If it did, we’d have robots provide public statements to the planning commission and board of supervisors. But since we are human, there are many variables that could impact a one-hour sound study:
· vertical and horizontal direction of shot,
· elevation of shot location vs. topography between and elevation of surrounding properties,
· leaves on the trees or not,
· amount of existing ambient noise that day or hour (compared to other days or times) due to wind, train schedule on nearby railroad track, amount and type of traffic on Rt. 6, aircraft, nearby construction and landscaping equipment,
· location of sound study equipment in relation to all the above,
· grade and material of shot used,
· how the gun is constructed, such as barrel length,
· and everybody has different levels of hearing loss and some people are more sensitive to high vs. medium vs. low sound frequencies, so the findings from a sound study are very subjective compared to what people actually hear and consider a nuisance.
At the county planning commission meeting, Linda Trice presented a compelling map of properties around Orapax that have signed the petition opposing the sporting clay shooting range. It is compelling because the majority of the surrounding households oppose the CUP application. The Board of Supervisors is voted into office by us, the taxpaying public, those same people that signed the petition. So for the Board to approve the Orapax permit is to vote against your own voting constituency.
Still highlighting the map of properties that signed the petition, I have to ask why a business would go against the surrounding community, even divide the community, that it wishes to do business in and with. This is socially irresponsible, a bad business practice, and casts doubt over Orapax business ethics. Orapax has been a responsible business up until now, but pursuing this permit after public outcry leads me to believe that we cannot trust what Orapax says about the number of potential customers, low noise impacts, minimal lead pollution impacts, and positive economic impacts to Goochland.
The direct economic impact to
is actually a loss of about $3,400 to the county budget. Four acres of land taken
out of land use will bring about $73 per year to the county, but assessed real
estate around Orapax could decline by at least $658,375 resulting in a lost of
$3,500 in tax revenue. Orapax will pay a $25 business fee, but pay not local
sales tax. Orapax customers would have to spend $1,000 at other Goochland
businesses in order for the county to bring in $10 in revenue. And Orapax
stated they would not be hiring new employees to support the shooting clays
range. Goochland County
Indirectly, continuing to pursue this permit is likely costing the county money is county administration costs, and if the permit is approved, will probably cost the county money due to an increased number of noise complaints being called into and filed with the Sheriff’s Office and Goochland County Administration.
At the planning commission meeting, Orapax stated that they would not be aggressively advertising the new sporting clay range and that they expected only about 4 people or parties per week to use the range. In contrast, Orapax said they have an active client list of about 1,400 and their website (http://orapax.com) states they are currently
Virginia’s #1 quail
hunting preserve. Surrounding property owners are having a hard time believing
that Orapax will not advertise this new capital investment and product offering
to their entire client list and advertise via every shorting sport and hunting
media channel in Virginia.
If this permit is approved and Orapax thrives from the additional business traffic and customer base, what stops Orapax from applying for a handgun or rifle shooting range later? What precedent does this set for other property owners across
that decide to
apply for similar permits? Goochland
Additionally, the county administration should be partnering directly with the EPA and the Virginia State Park Authority to perform an environmental impact study due to the lead found in gun shot that will be used at the sporting clay shooting range. The range is on a flood plane into the
James River, an already noted polluted river. And the
state has plans for a state park across the river in
that includes cabins and water sports landings. Not to mention, what would
municipals and residents down-stream think of the potential environmental
impact. Orapax stated that they copied “standard EPA language” into the CUP application,
but that is just not good enough. Powhatan County
I hope you can see why approving the Orapax CUP application would be the wrong decision. It violates the property rights of residents around Orapax. It’s bad business for
. And it would not
be politically advantageous to members of the Goochland Board of Supervisors.
Please listen to your constituents. Thank you. Goochland
[NOTE: The above is the full version of my letter sent to each Goochland County Supervisor. The abridged version has been published in the Richmond Times Dispatch's Goochland Gazette here: http://www.timesdispatch.com/goochlandgazette/opinion/letters/why-the-community-opposes-the-orapax-cup/article_05d93e10-5364-11e2-915f-0019bb30f31a.html]
For more public opinion on this issue, please see the following Letters to the Editor on the Goochland Gazette’s website.
“Sound study shows Orapax failed a more important test” by Linda Trice
“Shooting range would be a financial negative” by Ed & Claudia Lawton
“Planning Commission deserves a thank you” by Tucker Hill
“New residents oppose range” by Eric & Toni Halstead
“Wouldn’t have moved if range had been here” by John Keffer
“Another sound study needed” by Tom Crowder & Carrie Camp
"Need live fire demonstration" by T. Tesse