Proposed tactical facility is too dangerous

Published on June 29, 2018 in the Virginia Gazette

A recent article (The Virginia Gazette, June 23) concerning the proposed tactical training facility in Barhamsville was most interesting and, as retired military, drew my attention.

I went to the website and downloaded both Curtis’s proposal and the land-use plan prepared by a Williamsburg engineering firm and submitted for approval to the New Kent Planning Commission in May. The proposal describes the activities Curtis proposes for this facility on the 260+ acres the company owns there. The site plan presents the various facilities, rifle ranges and road driving courses arrayed on the available land.

It appears this tactical training facility was just plopped onto land that was available with little concern for the nature of the area — light residential, agricultural, small business — or for the safety of the residents.

I see several flaws in the Curtis proposal — some such as noise and fire protection are perhaps fixable, but one is not. Unfortunately, the one unfixable flaw could be lethal and should result in immediate disapproval of this project. Let me be specific.

The proposal submitted by Curtis Security Consulting clearly states ammunition up to 7.62 mm will be used and characterizes those weapons as “small arms or light arms.” These are the rounds fired by M-16s and AK-47s used by armies all over the world.

A quick check of the Army’s design criteria for firing ranges dictates 4,100 meters of safe space downrange from the firing point for these caliber weapons. I see no indication of any downrange land restrictions on Curtis’s land-use plan. In fact, all five of the proposed firing ranges end at the edge of Curtis’s property, with the required downrange safe zones extending several miles onto land Curtis does not own — where there are homes, buildings, woods and farmland owned by New Kent County residents.

This design could prove lethal unless severe restrictions are placed on the downrange land during live fire exercises — land Curtis does not own. I foresee acres and acres of land that cannot be safely tilled, planted, harvested or hunted.

This demonstrates to me that this facility was just plopped onto land that was available. You cannot safely place ranges of this nature on the land currently available to Curtis Security Consulting in Barhamsville. There is just not enough land to provide the necessary range geometrics to operate this facility safely, as proposed, within the 260+ acres, no matter where you place the proposed rifle ranges.

I urge the New Kent Planning Commission to quickly disapprove Curtis’s proposed tactical training facility and not allow either the citizens of New Kent County or Curtis to waste their valuable time and resources in what surely will be future meetings, planning sessions and litigation.

Perhaps another location in New Kent County would prove workable and safe, but the plan as proposed would be unsafe and possibly lethal.

It would be unconscionable for the New Kent Planning Commission to approve this project in its proposed location and open New Kent County to future liabilities, should the unthinkable happen. The Planning Commission exists to ferret out problems of this nature, and disapproval of the Curtis project in its proposed location should be viewed as validation of the value of both the Planning Commission and the project review process.

Ronald L. Stewart