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Berkeley Co. asks shooting range to prove development rules don't apply

December 19, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County officials have been trying for more than a year to get a Hedgesville, W.Va., area gun range to verify claims that it is exempt from certain county regulations.

A stop work order was issued by the Berkeley County Engineering Department and posted on the Tango Down Range property in September 2011 because a site plan for the development had not been received, according to county records.

County Engineer Kimberly J. Shrader said the county also has yet to receive proof that the business along Allensville Road obtained an entrance permit from the state Division of Highways as required.

Shrader said the business did not apply for a change of use permit for pavilions that were supposed to have been built on the property for residential use, according to county records. She said the county also has concerns as to whether the access road for the business meets county standards.

A message left for Jimmy McWilliams of Tango Down Range LLC at his home Tuesday evening was not returned, but Shrader said the business has previously indicated it is exempt from county regulations. McWilliams also could not be reached at the shooting range.

“We’ve been fighting this battle a long time,” Shrader said Wednesday.

The operation of the range also has alarmed several nearby residents who aired safety and noise concerns Monday night at the Berkeley County Planning Commission.

Douglas Webb said shooting at the range occurs from morning until dusk and indicated the noise level is so high that he has to yell to his son while they throw a baseball back and forth in the yard.

“It’s crazy,” Webb said.

David Starliper said he has found four bullet “projectiles” in the swimming pool in his back yard since the shooting began and indicated “fully automatic weapons” were being fired at the range.

“We can go out there and hear bullets whistling through the woods,” Starliper said.

County officials told planning commissioners that the shooting range owner has ignored stop work orders issued by the county and has claimed to be exempt from development regulations. Planning Director Michael Thompson said the owner claims that the business is exempt because it is on property permitted for mining.

Planning commissioners Monday night agreed to send the shooting range owner a letter and invite him to attend their Jan. 7 meeting in an effort to verify the exemption claim.

A representative of the shooting range, which was listed on the Planning Commission’s meeting agenda for discussion, did not attend.

The company appears to have been formed by McWilliams in June 2011, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

The company’s website says the range offers 20 lanes of shooting for pistol and rifle and that National Rifle Association-certified range safety officers and instructors are on staff.

“We strive to provide recreation and training for a large range of shooting disciplines,” the website stated Monday night.

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