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Berkeley County planners hear shooting range proposal

September 28, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A developer's plan to build a shooting range and firearms training facility in southwestern Berkeley County attracted concern Monday night from neighbors and support from sportsmen who attended a public hearing held by Berkeley County Planning Commission.

Sketch plans for the Peacemaker National Training Center, which is proposed to be built on about 500 acres along Brannons Ford Road near the Virginia state line, were unanimously advanced by commissioners to the next stage of plan approval.

"Our ranges will be controlled with (National Rifle Association) instructors on site, with strict discipline at all times," said property owner Cole McColloch.

Nobody will be just walking around on the range "tossing clay pigeons in the air and shooting them with a high-powered rifle," McColloch said.

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While largely a membership-type facility, the range would be open to the public and to law enforcement for training, he said. The range would be shut down from Nov. 15 through March 15 for the winter, McColloch said.

A former anti-terrorism security team member with the Marine Corps, McColloch said the range proposed is on part of a 2,100-acre farm that has been in his family since the 1830s.

"We finally found a way to make it productive and to serve the community," McColloch said.

Dirk Stansbury, the civil engineer for the project, said the goal is to open the facility as early as next spring, if not later in the year.

McColloch said experts with developing shooting ranges had been consulted, NRA standards are being met or exceeded and plans include an environmental stewardship plan to primarily manage lead abatement.

Neighboring property owner Charles Getz, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, said he enjoys shooting firearms and believes the project presents "a great opportunity," but also told commissioners that he was concerned about noise abatement at the range and the condition of the road leading to the property.

"That is a treacherous road, I don't even let my wife drive that at night," Getz said.

Stansbury said the natural topography of the land being sited for the project already was conducive for the range, which he said essentially will be situated in a valley.

While McColloch said shooting on the range on Sundays would generally not happen prior to 11 a.m. out of respect for church congregations, Commissioner Ted Bostic told him that he believed most services were not done until noon.

n In other business, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to advance the sketch plan for Bella Vista subdivision, a project consisting of 124-single family homes on 88.28 acres along Vineyard Road north of Grade Road in the Falling Waters area.

The subdivision was originally proposed in 2004, but did not advance through the county planning approval process, according to Department of Land Use Planning and Engineering director Stephanie Allemong-Miller.

The project's developer, Highlands of the Potomac LLC of Hagerstown, revamped the original proposal and resubmitted the plans for consideration under the county's 2009 subdivision ordinance, which allowed more flexibility than the previous rules, Allemong-Miller said.

"It's beautiful," Allemong-Miller said. "It's a really good design.

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