Monday, April 15, 2024

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Commissioners continue to hear complaints about shooting ranges in rural areas of county

An area resident who recently urged the county to crack down on noisy gun ranges has apparently found some allies to provide covering fire for his assault on these venues.

Earlier this week, two other residents approached Alamance County’s board of commissioners to echo the sentiments that were previously voiced by Darrell Russell, a retired civil engineer who resides in the countryside north of Burlington’s municipal limits.

Two weeks ago, Russell addressed the commissioners during a designated public comment period to call for tougher county-level restrictions on outdoor shooting ranges – and, in particular, the noise they create. Russell zeroed in on one range he never explicitly identified but which he said generates enough noise to rattle the dishes inside his home despite an intervening distance of more than a mile.

Shortly after Russell aired his concerns to the commissioners, The Alamance News heard from David Simmons and Rudy Cartassi of Rad Range, a firearms practice and training facility off of Jim Barnwell Road.

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Cartassi and Simmons acknowledged their venue had been the one which Russell impugned to the county’s governing board, based on his previous complaints directly to them.
Simmons and Cartassi nevertheless took issue with most of their opponent’s claims, including the alleged clatter of cookware, which they insisted their own sound readings have called into question.

The pair also pointed to a state statute that exempts longstanding gun ranges from local noise regulations. Although Simmons and Cartassi had purchased their property in 2021, they argued that their venue still meets the statutory exemption because it had been operating under the previous owners.

Cartassi and Simmons assured the newspaper that they would convey these objections to the board of commissioners at its next regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday. As it turned out, neither of Rad’s co-owners were in attendance that morning. Yet, in their absence, the commissioners heard from two other residents with gripes about outdoor shooting ranges in Alamance County.

Rad’s own operations were directly in the crosshairs of Monday’s first speaker, Butch McKenzie. During Monday’s public comment period, McKenzie took aim at Rad’s eligibility for a grandfather exemption, which he noted the applicable state statute conferred on facilities that were already in business three years before its enactment in 1997. McKenzie argued that county property records seem to undercut any claim that Rad has to this privilege.

“The property was owned by a church…until July 24, 2013,” he told the commissioners. “So, this gun range is not protected [against] any civil liability or criminal prosecution under state law.”

Under current state law, a gun range that’s not altogether exempt from local noise regulations is nevertheless subject only to those rules which existed when its operations began. The applicable statute explicitly states that a range’s owners, managers, and users are exempt from criminal prosecution or civil liability “if the range is in compliance with any noise control laws or ordinances that applied to the range and its operation at the time the range began operation.” The same statute also prohibits a neighbor from lodging a noise-related action against a gun range that “operated prior to the time the person acquires the title” – unless there’s “a substantial change in use of the range after the person acquires title.”

Butch McKenzie

McKenzie went on to quote some advice from a firearms industry trade association that urges gun ranges to “take corrective action immediately” if their activities generate noise levels in excess of 85 decibels on neighboring property. He insisted that this caveat is quite relevant to Rad’s operations.

“I have gone over there personally and recorded gunshots of 115 decibels off the gun range on someone else’s property,” he added. “That is 300 times greater than 85 decibels [on the logarithmic scale that’s used to measure noise].”

McKenzie also raised some concerns about stray bullets that he said are turning up in areas beyond the gun range’s grounds. He even contended that these errant rounds could result in lead contamination on neighboring property. Yet, it was the din from Rad’s operations that seemed to really ignite this resident’s fuse.

“I’m tired of the noise; it’s been obnoxious this week,” McKenzie complained. “I’m trying to do my taxes and I can’t think.”

The commissioners heard a rather similar account from Edwin Scott about an entirely different gun range in the southern part of the county.

Edwin Scott

Although Scott confessed his lack of familiarity with Rad’s operations, he insisted that the complaints it has drawn mirror his own experience with the Durham Rifle and Pistol Club off Jim Minor Road. Scott said that the noise from this range has been an endless source of frustration for him even though he lives roughly a mile from the club’s premises.

“They’re open from 8 to sundown on Saturdays and from 10 to sundown on Sundays,” he told the commissioners, “and it is one of the most annoying things.

“You’d like a little peace and quiet every once in a while,” the aggrieved resident added. “I would invite you out and you’d be very surprised, and probably shocked, at what you hear.”

See earlier coverage of back-and-forth about whether shooting ranges pose a noise problem in rural areas of the county:

Resident urges commissioners to tighten noise regulations on rural shooting ranges (March 24):

Gun range owners fire back at critic, defend their operations (March 31):

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