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Planning For A Shooting Range

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La Grange, CA — An existing shooting range in La Grange is one issue that will be before the Tuolumne County Planning Commission. The commission will address permits for the project and what recommendations to make to the Board of Supervisors who are scheduled to address the issue on October 7th at 1:30pm.

The property is 253.5 acres located at 10700 and 10900 La Grange Road. Four properties in that area, a total 644.7 acres, are under Williamson Act Contract. The shooting range is on 5.4 acres and has been going through the permit process since May 24th, 2012.

The owners, Blind Bull, LP. & Timothy & Joan Diestel applied for a Conditional Use Permit to correct a violation resulting from the development of a shooting range which is used by a weapons training school and law enforcement personnel. The project states that they have corrected the oversight and are requesting a project permit. In the project description it was noted there are other code violations on the project property, consisting of residences and turkey barns constructed without building permits and that issue is also being addressed.

The County has conducted an Initial Study and Environmental Assessment of the shooting range project. According to the proposal the project has been modified enough that they are submitting a Mitigated Negative Declaration. The Planning Commission will review the project plan, which includes plans to pay the county a Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee of $7,670.46 along with permit fees and a zone change from agriculture to recreational development.

The already constructed shooting range has been in operation since 2011. It has nine shooting stations, an obstacle course, a rappelling tower, a shooter’s check-in shed, a shade shed, a 400 square foot commercial coach for classroom use, two portable toilets, and a gravel parking area. Each shooting station contains a backstop dirt-berm for safety purposes.

The shooting range is utilized by the Weapons Training School operated by John and Tami Popke, who offer courses including occasional specialty Swat and Sniper training, 100 yard rifle shooting, and their most popular course intro to shooting for women. According to the project plan, range safety analyses recommend adding two more burms back-stops, but found no safety deficiencies.

On August 16, 2012 the Agricultural Advisory Committee determined that the shooting range operations would not significantly impact agricultural activities on the site, or adjacent properties. That issue is important due to the land, and surrounding area, being under the Williamson Act which is designed to preserve agricultural and open space.

Five property owners located within 1,000 feet of the project site were notified of the project. Three responses were opposed to the project, two did not respond. The complaints, addressed in the project plan, involve a bio-protection area for the poultry, safety issues with stray bullets, and noise problems. It was also noted that a fire was inadvertently started in September 2011 while target shooting going on. Since that time a fire-break perimeter was created, fire extinguishers, water hoses, and not shooting on windy days have been implemented.

The planning meeting to discuss this projects and other projects will be held September 3rd at 6:00pm in the Board of Supervisors Chambers in the Sonora County Administration Center building on Green Street.

The Follow up news story is here.