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Group, Greene sheriff move forward on gun range

Group, Greene sheriff move forward on gun range

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STANARDSVILLE — A group of residents has partnered with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to locate a property on which to build a firing range.

There is no gun range in Greene County, even for the sheriff’s office to utilize.

This fall will be five years since a different gun range project in Ruckersville was voted down by the county supervisors. There are no hearings scheduled for the new project yet.

“We used to use Orange’s [range] until they said they were going to start charging us,” said Greene Sheriff Steve Smith. “So, we started using Madison’s, but they could also say you can’t come here anymore and our only option is to travel all the way to Harrisonburg, where the academy has an indoor range. The last range we had was at the landfill and when they put the park in, they did away with it.”

Madison’ range is only for law enforcement to use, but the organizers of the Greene County Range Project say they’re planning to open it to the public and hope it will be located in Greene. There is a parcel they are looking at in Greene, but there are others in Madison, too. At this time, they’re not releasing the locations so surrounding owners will hear from them first when they’ve made an offer on a location.

“As a defense professional, I transferred here with the Navy in 2017,” said Walter Key, the real estate agent working with Smith to find the right property. “The first words out of my mouth after I bought my house were, ‘where’s the range?’ I live in Stanardsville and I drive to Charlottesville to shoot; it’s silly. I’ve been pondering the idea of a range for years … when Sheriff Smith posted on social media they needed a range, I had no idea they did not have their own range. That’s when I said, ‘tell me what you need, we’re going to make it happen.’”

Key is a National Rifle Association-certified instructor and teaches at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club off Old Lynchburg Road, which is south of the city of Charlottesville in Albemarle County.

“I drive 50 minutes to teach there,” Key said. “I have experience running ranges in the military and I’ve been a [range safety officer]. I’m also a real estate investor and a licensed Realtor, so I have access to everything that’s on the market.”

Key said that as the county approved the defense production zoning recently to attract defense professional jobs, supervisors should also know most defense professionals shoot.

“Even the ones that don’t have to shoot like to shoot, but a lot of them need to shoot,” Key said. “We deploy our intelligence guys to Iraq, Afghanistan, to Somalia, and they need to carry guns when they go there.”

Chuck Covington, first vice chairman of the Greene County Republican Committee, said that where he lives, he can hear neighbors shooting on their property.

“If we wanted to, we could buy this piece of property and not charge anybody to come out there and shoot and [the county] couldn’t do anything,” Smith said. “We could have people shooting every day all day long and if we don’t collect a fee, that’s all by-right.”

Covington said he’d like to see a range in Greene.

“When we had that Visitor Center [vote] going on, everybody was saying ‘anything but that’ and rattling off things,” Covington said. “The one thing they all had in common was they wanted something for the community to do, and this is something that the community can get behind. I taught my kids how to shoot at a young age and now dads can do the same. Scouts can be involved. Aside from the sheriff’s protection, it’s a huge community thing. Where else can the community come together in Greene?”

Steve Kruskamp, chairman of the Greene County Republican Committee, said it’s the community aspect of the project that he’s excited about.

“The part that I miss from being down in Albemarle and being a member of the Rivanna [club] is how many events we had and how many people I got to meet,” Kruskamp said. “When I first got here 11 years ago, I didn’t know anybody and how I met people was through the range. We had people who were national champions in shooting offering free instruction there just to help our community members, so I’m excited over that prospect.”

Smith said he appreciates everything that Key is doing, and hopes to have a finished product sooner rather than later.

“My ultimate goal is the sheriff’s office. I’ve got to have something for this office,” Smith said. “If you call for help and you want law enforcement in this county to help, do you want us to be as proficient with those weapons as we can be? Or do you only want us to shoot once a year?”

Key said he’s been asked why he’s hosting a GoFundMe for a for-profit project.

“I don’t intend to make a million dollars on the range. My goal is to build a range that benefits our county,” he said. “There will be fees because there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment and upkeep … and to mitigate lead.”

Supervisors heard about the process for such requests at their June 23 meeting.

“We do know that there is a private group working with the sheriff to see potential sites for a gun range and the agenda calls this an update on gun range regulations, but if you notice the title on the screen, it’s about the special-use permit approval process,” said Jim Frydl, Greene’s planning director and zoning administrator. “Gun ranges, much like a concert hall, are considered special uses and they are reviewed under our ordinance with some careful criteria.”

Special uses are activities that can impact things such as noise, traffic, safety or other items beyond what’s by-right under the current zoning of a parcel.

“The special-use permit process allows the board and the public to review a particular parcel and then allows the board to approve that use on a specific parcel,” Frydl said. “We also have the ability to place conditions or limitations on those uses.”

To follow the process, search #greenecountyrangeproject on social media or the fundraising page at gofundme.com/f/greene-county-range-project. Questions may be emailed to greenecounty rangeproject@gmail.com.

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