Shooting range opponents continue pushback

By Adam Rollins, Record Staff Writer
Posted 11/7/19

Less than a week before the Warren County Commission makes its decision about a shooting range permit for a military and police training operation, opponents continue their efforts to block …

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Shooting range opponents continue pushback

Less than a week before the Warren County Commission makes its decision about a shooting range permit for a military and police training operation, opponents continue their efforts to block approval.Patriot Training Foundation, a volunteer organization, is seeking a conditional use permit (CUP) to run training operations in the BMC Stone quarry on Quarry Road south of Warrenton. A number of homeowners near the quarry, as well as Innsbrook Resort, are urging the county to block the CUP.The Warren County Commission previously announced that its final decision on the CUP will be made Monday, Dec. 17. Leading up to that, members of the county commission were scheduled to inspect the training site and do sound testing Dec. 11.Innsbrook representatives learned of the visit ahead of time, and organized a group that intended to come along for the inspection. Almost a dozen people were waiting at the quarry gate when the commission arrived.Representatives of BMC Stone and Patriot Training Foundation at the gate said only three people from the group would be invited into the quarry, and that the property is otherwise not open to the public.This led to a short standoff with Innsbrook Resort CEO Charlie Boyce, who contended that more people should be allowed to observe the meeting and the property. That position was refused, and only Boyce and two other members of the group were allowed in, along with the commission and a Record staff member.The visit was an opportunity for the commission to directly observe the training site in the quarry, which Patriot Training Foundation had been operating since 2016. The group was informed earlier this year that a CUP is required for such activity.The gathering also became an opportunity for both sides of the disagreement to air their frustrations in front of the commission.Opponents repeated their most pressing concern, which is that the noise of gunfire will be a disturbance to neighboring property owners, including within Innsbrook, which is nearby. Boyce called for third-party sound testing to verify statements from Patriot Training Foundation that the noise from most shooting would not disturb most of the properties.“We continue to question if this is the right location for this type of training with so many residential properties surrounding the quarry. A more isolated, less populated property is more appropriate,” Boyce later told The Record.Meanwhile, Patriot Training Foundation President Keath Hausher told the commission that he has been frustrated with what he said is misinformation and exaggeration from opponents.He said the quarry site offers a valuable opportunity for police and military personnel to perform realistic training. Hausher commented that he feels the tone and statements of opponents have been disrespectful to his organization and the groups it serves.Ordinance violationOne opponent of the CUP for Patriot Training Foundation, nearby property owner Ed Anderson, has notified The Record and the county commission that he believes the organization committed an illegal act by operating in the quarry without a permit.Anderson referenced a section of the Warren County Zoning Order, which governs land usage. The order’s enforcement provisions state, in part, that any landowner or tenant who violates any part of the zoning order can be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor offense.“Both BMC (Stone) and Patriot Training Foundation have clearly broken the laws of our area,” Anderson wrote to The Record in an email.However, Northern District County Commissioner Dan Hampson said the county has to follow a specific procedure for zoning enforcement.“In order for us to give a misdemeanor violation, we need to get a written complaint to planning and zoning,” Hampson said.Planning and zoning officials also have explained that property owners are notified and given a chance to correct violations, before the county pursues misdemeanor charges. In this case, Patriot Training Foundation ceased its operations, meaning no additional action is needed, former Planning and Zoning Administrator Toni Eversmeyer said.Prior to finding out earlier this year that they need a CUP, BMC Stone representative Andy Arnold said the company had not received any notice of a planning and zoning violation at the Warrenton quarry.Other concernsAnother concern raised by Anderson is that his and others’ property near the quarry will diminish in value if a shooting range is approved. Anderson cited a 2012 Bridgton News article from North Waterford, Maine, stating a gun club there had decreased property values in a 1.5-mile radius.Supporters of Patriot Training Foundation, including Hausher, have pointed out that shooting from other properties, including from Park, is already audible in the area.Concerns about safety risks involved with a shooting range and potential environmental impacts have similarly been debated, leaving the Warren County Commission to weigh each piece and come to a conclusion.The commission will reach its final decision during a public hearing Dec. 17 at 11 a.m. at the Warren County Administration Building.

Patriot Training Foundation President Keath Hausher, center, explains features of the group's training site at the BMC Stone quarry south of Warrenton to members of the Warren County Commission and several others present at a tour Dec. 11. Pictured with Hausher are Northern District Commissioner Dan Hampson, left, and Presiding Commissioner Roger Mauzy.

Record photo/Adam Rollins