King George County residents continue to fire off rounds of protest about a proposed gun range in a quiet part of the rural county.
The volleys started in September before the Freedom Hunt Outdoor Club submitted its first piece of paperwork. And they’ve continued for four months, as 18 people who live near the former Cameron Hills Golf Course have spoken during the public-comment portion of five separate meetings held by the King George Board of Supervisors.
“I can’t even fathom what it would be like to listen to 25 rifles going off at the same time, and I don’t think any buffering system they can build can contain that kind of noise level,” said Vera Means, who lives half a mile from the proposed range. “This will absolutely ruin my whole existence, not to mention my property value.”
Mike Ognek, who with his brother, Chris, bought the property last summer, said the proposed facility won’t have 25 rifle stations. That number was listed incorrectly on a map submitted to the county in early December, he said.
The range would have 25 total shooting stations: 10 for pistols, 10 to 12 for rifles and one for shotguns, with the idea of adding more if warranted, according to the application.
The misfire has been corrected, and the King George’s Department of Community Development is reviewing the proposal, which also calls for a campground, hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities on the 256-acre property.
When the review is done, and county officials get requested reports about the potential impact on environment, traffic and emergency services, the proposal will come before the Planning Commission, then the Board of Supervisors.
No dates have been set.
At Board of Supervisor sessions, residents have kept up a barrage of concerns about the impact the range would have on life on Salem Church Road, off State Route 3 about halfway between U.S. 301 and the Westmoreland County line.
In October, the Rev. Leonard Bland of Salem Baptist Church, which has been there for 150 years, said it would “certainly be detrimental to our church life to hear gunshots” during Sunday morning services, funerals and Saturday-afternoon events for children.
In November, Linda Petersen said the gun range “is not in harmony with the area in which it’s located. Nobody wants to live in an area that sounds like a war zone.”
The brothers—Mike Ognek is a Realtor with Q Real Estate in Spotsylvania County and Chris Ognek is the office administrator—addressed their concerns in the application. They pointed out there’s already a lot of firearms usage around the proposed gun range, and that some people have mentioned private ranges on their land, where they’ve invited others to shoot.
The notion that it’s OK for them to do it, but that “such activities should be prohibited on our property is wholly inconsistent with property rights, equal treatment under the law and fair dealings,” the Ogneks stated in the application.
Resident Darren Grigsby said it’s not an issue of guns, but of noise. He said he doesn’t understand the technical aspects of how sound travels, but knows it varies. He lives about 4 miles from the Colonial Beach Dragstrip.
“Some days, I don’t hear a race car all day, and other days, it sounds like I’m sitting in one,” Grigsby said, adding he doesn’t want to “listen to 5,000 rounds of ammunition being fired on a Sunday afternoon.”
Supervisors have thanked residents for commenting but haven’t offered any formal opinions because the application hasn’t reached them. Still, they’ve encouraged residents on this project, and others, to voice opinions while it’s early in the review process.
“Often, people wait for the night we’re actually going to vote on it to get involved,” said Supervisor Chairman Jeff Bueche.
At two separate meetings, Supervisor Richard Granger has reminded the audience that county officials would have to amend the zoning ordinance to make a gun range acceptable in an agricultural area—and that the Ogneks then would have to apply for a special exception permit on top of that.
Supervisor Ruby Brabo, who has mentioned several times she considers the impact the board’s actions has on neighboring properties, said on Jan. 8: “Trust me, I would not want that next to my house.”
Brabo also said she wasn’t sure other residents would approve of changing the zoning ordinance, if it opened the door to gun ranges in any agriculturally zoned area.
Supervisor Cathy Binder, who represents Shiloh District and the area involved, has said several times that she’s going through all the communication received.
“One day there were more than 75 emails, for and against,” she said.
Mike Ognek looks forward to presenting his case to county officials.
“Our hope is that when the final application reaches the board, we will successfully demonstrate our application for a special exception would not require a comprehensive change and is in keeping with the agri-tourism goals of the county,” he wrote in an email.