The proposed use is not capable of satisfying either the New Kent County ordinances, or the Federal standards for safe operation of a shooting range. The Surface Danger Zone (SDZ), the area where there is a danger of being hit by a stray bullet, extends over 2.5 miles from the property. No amount of mitigation can change this.
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The daily gunfire noise, potentially from 7 am to 10pm would have a considerable adverse effect to the environment. Even if noise abatement measures were adopted, the sounds would be audible on adjacent and nearby properties, and the very nature of the sounds would be intermittent and aperiodic; this is a very stressful type of noise. A clap of thunder typically registers at about 120 dB.i Gunfire noise registers 160-170 dB, so the effect for nearby residents could be likened to having a thunderstorm raging all day long, every day. The CUP application also proposes to simulate IED explosions, up to 40 times a day, limited to 12 per hour. This translates into the possibility of a simulated roadside bomb every 5 minutes during the peak hour.
The CUP application claims that “New Kent County is a working county therefore most of our training hours would fall into line with the times people are gone from their houses.”ii This is simply not the case in the Barhamsville area. There are many small businesses and home occupations in Barhamsville; over 20 have been identified and there are numerous others. Some of these are especially sensitive to the disruption of a high noise level (e.g., artists, software developers, agri-tourism).
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iThe Science of Thunder, National Lightning Safety Institute, June 7, 2018 (http://lightningsafety.com/nlsi_info/thunder2.html)
iiConditional Use Permit (CUP) Application CUP-02-18, filed with the County Planning Department May 18,2018
While there would be tangible benefits (facility for NK County Sheriffs to train and potential employment opportunities), there would be even greater losses. The loss of property values could well be over $30 million, and the loss of agri-tourism would be hard to estimate; there are 5 agri-tourism businesses in the immediate area, and many more in other parts of New Kent County whose business would be diminished.
If the value of all of the property near the proposed facility is reduced, then our assessed values should decline proportionately. That means the New Kent County property tax revenue on those properties will decline proportionately. At that point, the County has only two choices: reduce existing services; or, increase the levy upon all other county properties. That makes this a County problem, not a Barhamsville problem.
The current zoning of the subject property is A-1, and most of the surrounding property is also A-1; in practice, this is a residential community. There are over 400 homes within 1.5 miles of the subject property. Many of the residents live here because of the County’s commitment to preserving our rural character and quality of life. While a pistol range is a conditionally permitted use in the A-1 zoning, the proposed use (military combat training range) will impair the peaceful and quiet use of adjacent properties, and so is inconsistent with the intent and purpose of the zoning ordinances.
Future Land Use
In the Comprehensive Plan, the subject property is designated “hamlet” and “rural lands.”i The vision is for a charming small town center where people will congregate, live and shop. A shooting/training range, with its attendant noise environment (daily gunfire and explosion noise, potentially from 7 am to 10pm), would certainly discourage people from gathering or living nearby. Even if noise abatement measures are adopted, the sounds will be audible on adjacent and nearby properties, and the very nature of the sounds would be intermittent and (to an outside observer) randomly-occurring; this is a very stressful type of noise.
iNew Kent County Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use map (http://www.co.new-kent.va.us/DocumentCenter/View/762)
Lead at shotgun and rifle/pistol ranges has the potential to affect surface water, ground water and soil, birds and wildlife, and range personnel.