MANATEE -- Manatee County Hearing Officer Lori Dorman has issued a notice of intent to approve the special permit application for the proposed Ancient Oak Gun Club at Lakewood Ranch.
Opponents, who say they don't necessarily oppose gun ownership or the gun club, are adamantly opposed to the location, near a school's nature center. They reacted with disappointment Wednesday to the notice of intent to approve.
"I honestly do not believe their claim that if they have 20-something gun stations going at once that the children wouldn't hear gunfire. There has been no science presented to back that claim," concerned parent
Jamie Zikhan said.
Mara Fulk, administrator for Center Montessori School which has a nature lab for students in the vicinity, said she heard the news of an intent to approve with a feeling of nervousness.
"We are not against gun ownership or the gun range. But when you locate a shooting range close to a facility that houses children, it is nerve-wracking. That the school and Bayside Community Church host a ton of activities where the children will potentially be hearing gunshots is sad," Fulk said.
"It does bring anxiety to the children. I have a bunch of parents who want to present new information," she said.
Under Dorman's notice of intent to approve, signed Jan. 8, interested parties have five days, excluding Saturday and Sunday, to respond with new information.
The clay shooting club, to be built by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, drew concerns from neighboring residents, as well as Center Montessori School and Bayside Community Church at a public hearing Dec. 19.
The gun club would be built on 78 acres now zoned for agricultural use, three-quarters of a mile south of State Road 64 East off Uihlein Road.
Within 10 days of filing the notice of intent -- no later than Jan. 24 -- and after review of responses to the draft intent, Dorman could issue a final order either approving or denying the special permit. She could also reopen the public hearing.
The gun club site now has a future land use category of mixed-use community, which allows recreational uses.
"An outdoor firing range is considered a recreational use," according to the notice of intent.
"The closest residence is over 2,300 feet to the northwest from the closest shooting station at the complex; the 'Land Lab' used by the Center Montessori School and Bayside Community Church are farther from the closest boundary of the proposed complex than this residence," the notice of intent said.
The notice of intent finds the proposed use compatible with the area and not a danger to public health or safety.
Gun enthusiasts warmly welcomed news that SMR was planning to add a shooting club.
Wayne Evans, who would manage the gun club, previously told the Herald that Ancient Oak would be located far enough from anything else that "there is absolutely no safety issue whatsoever."
"The people were opposed to the gun range because they believed they would hear shots from that range. It was all about the noise and the gunshots that they might be able to hear," Evans said.
Low-brass, low-power, small shot, which is much quieter than hunting loads, would be the only ammunition allowed at the gun club. It's doubtful that neighbors would be able to hear the sounds of gunfire from the range, Evans previously told the Herald.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1