Myakka City shooting range dispute heads to court

jdela@bradenton.comApril 21, 2013 

MANATEE -- The yearlong dispute over a shooting range and resort on private property in Myakka City is heading to court Monday.

Two neighbors of property owned by Christopher, Virginia and Joanna Baden filed a civil injunction in June 2012 against activity at the Rocky Creek Ranch Shooting Resort, at 38820 Taylor Road. A hearing is set for 9 a.m. before 12th Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan.

The plaintiffs, the Rocking Seven Ranch and Howse Ranch, claim bullets from two gun ranges routinely land on their property, creating a safety hazard and noise issues, as well as the potential for property damage. The suit claims the firing ranges on the Baden land are "improperly constructed and dangerous," posing an "immediate, imminent and potentially deadly threat."

While Rocky Creek applied for permits last August for a shooting range, as well as permits for using a house and barn for guest lodging, no permits have been issued

by Manatee County.

County staff has recommended approval of the permits.

However, recent activity at Rocky Creek prompted a Code Enforcement Board hearing April 10, where Garret Barnes, owner of the Rocking Seven Ranch, complained that the resort was still operating despite an order issued by the county to cease activity until permits were issued.

"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."

At the April 10 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.

The code enforcement board refused to hear any discussion about shooting activity.

The hearing ended with no action, when it was learned that code enforcement officers had never actually seen the inside of the buildings on the property, and so were unable to determine if violations existed. Another hearing is set for May 8.

Property owners in Myakka City first complained about activity at Rocky Creek in early 2012. The resort's web site, www. floridashootingresort.com, advertises group instruction in pistol marksmanship training, personal and home defense skills, and "tactical run-n-gun drills."

Photos on the site show people firing a variety of weapons, including semi-automatic assault rifles and machine guns.

Matthew Taylor, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, says his clients are simply asking the operators of Rocky Creek to stop activity at the resort until the county permitting process is complete.

"We're asking the court to make them stop because it's a dangerous activity," Taylor said, and his clients are in fear of their lives. "We want to be sure they (Rocky Creek) will design this so it's safe for everyone."

Calls to the Badens' attorney, Ed Vogler, were not returned.

Jim DeLa, east Manatee/weekend editor, can be contacted at 941-748-0711, ext. 7011. Follow him on Twitter @JimDeLaBH.

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