Douglas County Planning Commissioners denied an application for an indoor gun range 5-1 at Tuesday’s public meeting.
Commissioners voted to deny the application with a recommendation to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners to direct staff to consider a zoning text amendment.
Shooting ranges currently do not fall under indoor recreation use in the Douglas County development code, said Dirk Goering, staff member for the planning division.
They are categorized as an “unlisted use.”
Commissioner Margaret Pross encouraged the applicant, Patrick McKinnish, to appeal the denial with the board of commissioners.
Goering also cited safety concerns like ammunition storage, bullet containment, lead disposal and noise pollution in the denial recommendation.
McKinnish is the owner of Guns N Arrows.
He said that he has been trying to get an answer from the county about where a shooting range can be zoned.
“I intend to have it at my store, but there is no zone for it right now,” he said.
The gun store is located at 1321 Highway 395 next to the Rite Aid shopping mall in Gardnerville.
He said that planning division staff concerns about safety were unnecessary.
“Our lead bullets are concealed in full metal jackets and they don’t explode because the back stop catches them,” he said. “You take them out of the back stop and they look like they just came out of the box.”
Modern lead bullets also don’t contain mercury or primers anymore so disposal is not an issue, he said.
Noise pollution was a concern for Pross.
“We can’t have a tenant in an adjacent building hold a meeting with a client and hear gunshots,” she said.
McKinnish said he has checked ambient noise from shooting ranges and it was 90 decibels.
That volume level is not high enough to hear outside of an indoor shooting range.
He also said his building is a stand-alone building with no other tenants.
Currently, the only shooting range in the Valley is located near the dump.
It is outdoors and unsupervised, McKinnish said.
“The county runs a shooting range through the parks and recreation department, but the problem with the outdoor range is that there is no supervision and no stands,” McKinnish said. “It’s basically just a place to go and shoot.”
He said customers come in and complain about users not paying attention to people down range.
“I get a lot of people in the store who are scared out there,” he said. “If you go to set up a target then you are down range and people could start shooting.”
He said an indoor range is needed to keep people from shooting in the backcountry and leaving illegal dumpsites behind them.
“Our mission is to stop people from shooting in the backcountry like the sandpits in the Ranchos,” he said. “There are shooting ranges all over the valley with trash and all kinds of stuff like washing machines and TVs. We’re trying to help curb some of that, hopefully.”
Commissioner Don Miner and vice chairman James Madsen voiced concern that if it wasn’t approved by them, staff and the board of commissioners would forget the issue.
“I’m about to upset the apple cart,” Madsen said. “What if we just approve it then they (county board of commissioners) will have to approve it because otherwise they’re not going to do a damn thing.”
Community Development Director Mimi Moss said that approving the shooting range without a code or special use permit in place first would only subject the application to a design review of the building without regard for safety regulations.
“Without a special use permit no standards apply and there are no limitations on zoning districts,” she said.
Pross said that even though she thought McKinnish would install the correct safety measures to his indoor shooting range, there had to be regulations and standards set up because the next business person might not.
McKinnish said he wanted to open the shooting range in the next couple of months, but now thinks it will take at least that long to get a ruling from commissioners.
He said he would attend the next county board of commissioners meeting so that “the ball won’t get dropped.”