City Planners to Hold Public Hearing on Colonial Williamsburg Musket Range Proposal

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Photo by Chuck Durfor
Photo by Chuck Durfor

A plan to build a firing range at Colonial Williamsburg will face its first public test next month.

The Williamsburg Planning Commission is scheduled to host four public hearings on the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s plan to construct a live-fire musket range at a 46-acre wooded area at 640 South England St. during its July meeting.

The four hearings cover the steps required for the range to be approved, which include rezoning the land and the approval of a special-use permit to allow the discharge of 18th-century firearms on the land and the construction of the range.

The land for the proposed range is currently zoned for low-density single-family dwellings, and would require an amendment of the City of Williamsburg’s comprehensive plan to be reclassified as a museum support zone.

The proposal would also require a special-use permit, which allows uses of the land not specified in the city’s zoning code.

Documents submitted to the city by Colonial Williamsburg indicate the firing range would be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Powder and firearms will not be stored overnight at the range.

The proposed musket range is one of several initiatives to make the living history museum a more hands-on experience for guests.

“Providing unique experiences and attractions that draw guests to Williamsburg is critical to the financial health and well-being of the Foundation and our community,” Colonial Williamsburg interim vice president of operations Robert Underwood said in an application statement. “This is especially true in today’s competitive market for people’s vacation time and discretionary income.”

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation President and CEO Mitchell Reiss unveiled the vision to boost visitor numbers at a May 21 breakfast with community leaders. Highlighting that vision were the musket range and a petting farm in Market Square.

At the musket range, interpreters would demonstrate the black powder weapons, and guests would have the opportunity to fire the muskets under one-on-one supervision. Targets at the range would feature the face of George III, the British monarch throughout the Revolutionary period.

The petting farm would give visitors an up-close experience with animals common to colonial life.

Reiss has said the firing range and petting farm are two of 42 initiatives the foundation is pursuing through the next year. Others include partnering with candy company Mars Inc. for Halloween events in the Historic Area, including trick-or-treating on Duke of Gloucester Street and a new child-focused archaeology program called DIG!

After hearing from the public on the proposal, city staff will issue a recommendation on whether to approve it.

The Williamsburg City Council will have the final say on the requests. Council members could vote on the proposal at their August meeting.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the date of the public hearings is in July.

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