Letter to Commissioners and Supervisors (July 9, 2018)

To the New Kent County Planning Commissioners and Board of Supervisors:

I am writing to voice my opposition to Curtis CUP-02-18, a conditional use application proposing the installation of a simulated war zone on farmland in Barhamsville. You need only read the first page of the approved Comprehensive County plan to be immediately reminded “it is the widely-held desire of the citizens of New Kent County to maintain the county’s attractive, rural character.” A combat range is blatantly inconsistent with and a dangerous violation of that plan. It has no place in New Kent County or any of the surrounding neighborhoods. Any consideration to approve this application is unconscionable.

Simulated war zone, combat range, counter-terrorism, tactical or military training facility… whatever you call it, this is no rose, and it will never smell or sound any sweeter. The presence of this facility will have a decidedly detrimental effect on local businesses and property values. What has drawn people to this area – a peaceful and quiet rural lifestyle, a landscape dotted with small farms and grazing livestock, an unmistakable sense of community – all will be irrevocably destroyed with the firing of the first projectile.

Friends of ours, responsible gun owners and NRA members, are seriously considering relocation to this area. They visited us last week and looked at a house in Lanexa. Despite loving the house and 16+ acre property, they decided to look elsewhere because of the proposed combat range.

My daughter and son-in-law, a 20-year Air Force veteran, and their children recently settled into their new Barhamsville home, which now, is too near to this proposed combat range for comfort. Their “forever home” was a huge financial investment for them, as most homes are for young families. After years of moving with the military, they had a dream of an idyllic rural lifestyle with a garden and chickens, where the kids could play safely, far away from noise and congestion of the suburbs. That dream is becoming a nightmare. And imagine my angst knowing my grandchildren ride a school bus that will pass through a proposed line of fire several times a day.

Personally, my husband and I are trying to sell a second home we own in the Stonehouse development in James City County to no avail, thanks to concern over this combat range. Bullets and noise do not observe county land boundaries.

The proximity of Stonehouse and other neighborhoods bordering New Kent County puts our homes, families and lives at risk to suffer the same negative safety, noise, economic and environmental impacts, and adverse effects on our property values. Moreover, some of our homes, including mine, are situated in the Surface Danger Zone (SDZ), an area extending 2.5 miles from the proposed combat range where there is danger of being struck by a stray bullet.

I am confident others have similar stories to tell.

Despite comments to the contrary, there is no doubt the presence of a combat range will detrimentally impact the area’s stand alone and home-based businesses. The proposed hours of operation – six days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with additional operation at night until 11:00 p.m., will deliver a consistent and unsettling level of noise that will effectively disrupt these businesses and the right to peaceful and quiet use of property for neighboring homes and farms, their families, pets, and livestock.

Curtis’ statement that their training hours are aligned with the times people are gone from their homes is simply untrue.  The early morning, Saturday, and outdoor operating hours to 11:00 p.m. are outside “normal” working hours for most who are employed outside their homes. Further, there is no consideration given to the many stay-at-home parents, non-school age children, home schooled children, non-working or retired persons, not to mention area visitors and the increased percentage of adults and children at home during the summer months who will be subject to daily repetitive gunfire and explosions.

Not only is Curtis proposing operations six days a week, they plan to be active for more than 300 days of the calendar year, with no provision for a cease fire during school closures, or holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, or the 4th of July, preventing families from enjoying outdoor social activities consistent with a quiet, rural lifestyle.

The Comprehensive County Plan states it was built on overarching goals, including maintaining the area’s rural character, which “came to the forefront of discussions time and time again.” A combat range is nowhere in that document. Authorization to build one in New Kent County will not only prevent the more appropriate development and growth outlined in the plan, but it will fundamentally destroy the rural character, quality of life, property values and businesses that exist today.

The majority of properties adjacent to and on the periphery of the proposed combat range are designated A-1 agricultural, and are home to hundreds of families, working and hobby farms. The County Plan defines the area as “hamlet” and “rural.” The notion, let alone the existence of a combat range in New Kent County, is diametrically opposed to the goals of that plan, which includes:

  • Preserving the County’s existing rural character
  • Protecting the natural environment
  • Protecting and enhancing the County’s historic, cultural, and scenic resources by developing cultural and tourist oriented areas
  • Allowing rural lands to remain in an undeveloped state
  • Encouraging the development of eco- and agri-tourism
  • Minimizing noise and light pollution
  • Ensuring site-generated, high-noise production is trapped or baffled and DOES NOT IMPACT NEIGHBORS

If this application’s egregious and flagrant disregard of the Comprehensive County plan is not enough reason to defuse it, the NKC Code, Article XIX, Section 98, dated 3 May 2018, which very clearly, definitively, succinctly, and SPECIFICALLY states “No combat-type ranges shall be permitted” should be.

This proposed use is a gross violation of the county plan. I cannot stress that enough. Given the negative safety, noise, economic and environmental impacts, as well as the adverse effect on local businesses, tourism, property values, current and future land use, a decision to grant this permit would be colossally irresponsible. We simply cannot allow this narrative to define the next chapter in the story of this historic county.

The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors represent the citizens of New Kent County and as such, are accountable to uphold the Comprehensive County Plan and codes. As such, I implore you not only to hear, but also LISTEN to the hundreds of voices that have risen in protest of this application. If this combat range moves forward, the early whispers of crumbling property values will quickly become a deafening death knell for the county, and that is equally as frightening as military gunfire resounding in your backyard.

Donna Brock
James City County