Manatee County shooting resort lacks county permits, presents safety hazard

April 19, 2013 

The most troubling aspect to the controversy surrounding the commercial operation of a gun range near Myakka City isn't the fact that the business opened without county permits, although that, too, is baffling.

It's that neighbors complained to Manatee County in June 2012 about the clear public safety hazard posed by the Rocky Creek Ranch Shooting Resort, but county code enforcement officers only last month issued citations ordering the gun club to shut down and face a code violation hearing. That's an inexplicably long time span, one that nearby property owners rightly challenge.

Those neighboring landowners continue to express grave fears for the safety of their families. The resort's website has shown visitors shooting machine guns and semi-automatic weapons on the two gun ranges -- both positioned on the edge of the property. Bullets from such high-powered weapons of war can travel miles.

In depositions taken in a civil case, neighbors recalled hearing bullets from the range whiz overhead and hit their trees. That certainly ranks as a reckless and irresponsible gun range operation.

Three members of the Baden family own the shooting resort. On Monday 12th Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan will hold a hearing over a civil injunction against all resort operations until the required permits are issued to the owners. Two adjacent property owners, Garret Barnes and Tom Howze, are pursuing civil relief.

Although the county warned property owners last year that the proper permits must be obtained, that did not occur.

Finally, the county took action last month, citing the conversion of the barn into a bunkhouse and use of the house on the property as guest lodging as land-use code violations.

Last week, the Manatee County Code Enforcement Board continued the case until May 8 to allow time for county inspectors to visit the resort. County staff has recommended fines be levied should the board rule the operation violated land use regulations.

To bolster their position in the civil case, the complainant's attorney, Kevin Hennessy, enlisted the expertise of an engineer, John Minder of Minder and Associates Engineering Corp. His recommendation puts this issue in a sound and proper perspective.

Minder advises the county deny a special permit and all operations cease until plans are submitted "in full compliance with Manatee County ordinances and is in full compliance with all design, health and safety recommendations of the National Rifle Association Range Source Book."

That reasonable and prudent recommendation would ensure public safety and proper compliance with county regulations.

Neighbors should not be subjected to the unmitigated fear of stray bullets taking a life.

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