Myakka gun resort opponents must wait another month for decision

jdela@bradenton.comApril 11, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Neighbors who contend a shooting resort near Myakka City has been operating without permits for more than a year may have to wait another month before knowing if the county will take action.

The Manatee County Code Enforcement Board Wednesday continued the case until its May 8 meeting after code enforcement officers said they have not inspected the buildings yet at the Rocky Creek Ranch Shooting Resort on Taylor Road.

"People aren't doing their jobs here," said Kevin Hennessy, an attorney representing shooting range neighbor, Garret Barnes, who owns the Rocking Seven Ranch. He said Barnes filed the original complaint against the range a year ago.

"This has been going on a long time," Barnes told the board. "I don't know why it's just been left alone. Help us, please. It's a bad situation."

Neighboring landowners have complained about noise and potential safety issues. Hennessy said they took depositions from people who heard bullets from the range whiz overhead and smack into trees on their property.

At the code hearing, the board considered several

potential building use violations, including a house and barn being used as customer lodging without permits, and using an RV with electrical hookup as a temporary dwelling without a permit. County staff have recommended fines be levied if the board finds the resort in violation.

Rocky Creek applied for permits last August for the shooting range and lodging.

Hennessy presented photos from the shooting resort's own website, floridashootingresort.com, as evidence shooting activity and lodging is taking place. The images show people shooting machine guns and semi-automatic weapons, and the interior of a "bunkhouse barn" with bunks, and a photo caption saying it sleeps six with a "shared full bath."

Attorney Ed Vogler, representing Chris Baden, part owner of Rocky Creek along with Ray and Sara Baden, told the board website photos don't constitute proof because it can't be determined when the photos were taken.

"These violations, which may have existed in the past, no longer exist. And there is no evidence that they do. And I submit there is nothing for you to act on," Vogler said.

When board member John Bondur asked enforcement officers if they had taken their own photos of the building interiors, they said they have never seen the inside of the house, which the website refers to as a lodge, and the bunkhouse barn.

"I don't feel we have enough information" to render a decision, Bondur said.

After Baden said code enforcement officers would be allowed to inspect the buildings, the board continued the hearing to May 8.

Citing dangerous conditions, engineer John Minder of Minder and Associates Engineering Corp. recommended against granting a special permit allowing the Manatee County application. Hennessey sought the review for his clients.

Based on his professional engineering review, Minder said all operations at the center should stop until plans and specifications were submitted "in full compliance with Manatee County ordinances and with all design, health and safety recommendations of the National Rifle Association Range Source Book.

Baden declined to comment after the hearing.

The next step is a 12th Circuit Court hearing April 22 before Judge Janette Dunnigan over a civil injunction filed by Barnes and bordering property owner Tom Howze against the gun ranch after their original complaints to the owners and to Manatee County in June 2012.

Barnes and Howse are seeking an injunction against all resort activity until all needed permits are obtained by the owners.

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