Gun club at Lakewood Ranch gets OK

dgraham@bradenton.comMarch 12, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Work can proceed on the Ancient Oak Gun Club proposed by Schroeder-Manatee Inc., now that hearing officer Lori Dorman has issued a notice of intent and draft final order approving a special permit for the "sport shooting range."

Based on the range's location, "the establishment, maintenance or operation of the proposed use is not detrimental to and does not endanger the public health, safety or general welfare," according to the county's notice of intent to approve the permit. There is no rifle or pistol use proposed at this range.

The hearing officer has until the end of business Thursday to accept public comment, according to Bob Schmitt, county planning division manager. If there is no new evidence, the decision needs to be made by March 21.

"We'd like to be in a position to be operating the site as soon as we can get the permits to be able to do so," said attorney Caleb Grimes, representing the project. "It's going to be full steam ahead in compliance with all the rules and regulations."

The initial site work should

take less than 30 days, followed by construction of two minor buildings, according to Robert Lombardo, president of Lombardo, Foley & Kolarik Inc.

One building would be for shooters to check in, and the other would be a pavilion where people could put on their equipment.

"I think that the right decision was made based upon the testimony and the facts," Lombardo said. "The noise study just reinforced what we were saying, that we aren't going to be adversely affecting any of our neighbors."

The notice specifically mentions careful consideration of concerns expressed by members of the public, in particular those of the Center Montessori School's students and teachers.

Dorman said she acknowledges and understands their concerns regarding the impact that gunshot noise may have on the public's use of the adjacent properties. Nonetheless, under applicable law, this is a permitted use of this property.

Reaction at the school Monday was resignation.

"I think we just need to go forward with what it is, and try and go in with an open mind," said middle school director Robin Edidin. "They are our neighbors as well, so we'll get a chance to observe the sound issue and talk to them more about screening and hope they'll be willing to consider it. I know some parents are scared about this, but I don't think the guns are an issue at the range except for the noise."

Montessori plans are to enjoy the land lab as much as possible and to confirm to parents that their children are safe, school director Mara Fulk said.

"This is obviously disappointing, but we need to learn to move forward and hope for the best for them. Unfortunately it will alter some things for us on the land lab. We have some parents who will be hesitant to send their children," Fulk said.

The county found that the range, which would sit on a 532-acre sod farm near State Road 64, fits in with the agricultural character of the surrounding area. The hours of operation are limited to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Any additions or changes to the approved site plan will require a revised final site plan review.

Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7027, or tweet @DeeGrahamBH.

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