Hearing officer issues intent to approve special permit for Myakka gun education and training center

dgraham@bradenton.comMay 2, 2013 

MANATEE -- An embattled Myakka gun training facility facing neighborhood opposition received a nod Friday from Special Hearing Officer Meg Wittmer, who issued a notice to approve its application for a special permit for an outdoor firing range.

The facility is located on property owned by Chris Baden and other family members at 38820 Taylor Road near Myakka City.

After allowing five working days for anyone involved in the hearing to bring in objections by Friday,

Wittmer has until the following Friday, May 10, to either issue an order approving the special permit with any conditions necessary, deny the permit or reopen the public hearing.

After receiving the notice, the range's Facebook page posted, "Rocky Creek Ranch JUST received word from Manatee County Government that we have been APPROVED for our Outdoor Firing Range permit! Thanks to all of you who have supported us in this VERY difficult process!"

Neighbors Garret Barnes and Thomas Howze, however, worked to prepare their response to the county.

"We think that there are some conditions that need to be in there that aren't, that need to protect the public," Barnes said.

Conditions listed by the hearing officer include the maximum number of people on site, construction of berms and barriers, rest

rooms, garbage collection and required personnel. In addition, "gunfire shall be oriented in an easterly direction toward the interior of the subject parcel."

"With those conditions there were some good ones, but it doesn't go far enough to keep the bullets on the property, and there are

some considerations that the special magistrate should have taken into consideration and didn't," said Barnes. "Safety is still a major problem. We are not comfortable at all with that notice of intent. We think we are still in danger."

Other concerns Barnes raised have to do with the character of the surrounding area and decreasing property values.

"There are no restrictions on the types of guns," Barnes said. Theoretically they can shoot cannons out there 24 hours a day seven days a week. They could have 10,000 people out there. It could be a two-week event. It's just vague on a lot of issues, especially with a gun range and training facility where they're shooting these types of guns. This needs to be specific, detailed. This is a use that specifically affects neighbors, not just adjacent neighbors, but surrounding neighbors, because of danger and noise."

The problem, Barnes said, was the project needed "every angle thought through with experts from the county putting their expertise in, and that didn't happen."

"For us to comment on it is a bit premature," said Manatee County Building Department director John Barnott. "The hearing officer made a determination. There's an appeal period and once we get through that we'll have a better idea of what we're going to do."

At this point the county is "waiting on the period to expire where she could possibly reopen the hearing," Barnott said. "After that point the county would be able to work through the process."

Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-0411, ext. 7027, or tweet @DeeGrahamBH

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