York County Supes Approve Indoor Firing Range Despite Objection from Neighbor

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The indoor firing range abuts Barbara Washington's home on Penniman Road (Courtesy York County)
The indoor firing range abuts Barbara Washington’s home on Penniman Road (Courtesy York County)

A new indoor firing range is coming to Upper York County.

The York County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night — with Supervisor Don Wiggins absent — to allow the 15-rifle range and 15-pistol range building to occupy the area around Penniman Road, despite protests from a woman who lives at a home 106 feet away from the building’s proposed parking lot.

Owned by the Digges Company, the 18,100-square-foot range — designed by range design firm experts who have also worked with the U.S. Department of Defense — is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that regulates environmental hazards such as lead contamination and smoke, and has specialized ventilation that makes the inside of the range soundproof.

It will also have steel or concrete walls, steel armory, baffling and backstops to prevent noise.

The Digges Company had to go through two public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors because the zoning ordinance calls for businesses such as a firing range to obtain a special-use permit.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the board approve the application at its meeting in May.

Besides being 106 feet from the property line of the single-story home of the Washington family, who has lived on the property for more than 100 years, the range is also surrounded by other industrial uses, a nursery, a landscaping business and the future neighborhood of Whittaker’s Mill.

Despite reassurances from attorneys Vernon Geddy and Mark Rinaldi — who are representing the Digges Company on the application — about the safety of the range’s concrete and steel walls, homeowner Barbara Washington was upset about the range’s possible noise, its proximity to her home and the security outside of the building in the parking lot, which she said abuts her bedroom window.

“For [the Digges Company] to come in and do this here … I don’t think nobody in this room would vote for a firing range to be in their backyard,” she said during the public hearing.

Her daughter-in-law Maria Washington also spoke at the hearing, calling her mother-in-law’s home a “gathering place” for children and grandchildren. She said she was worried about people attempting to break into the range and stealing firearms, as well as people bringing their own firearms to the range.

Barbara Washington asked the range be moved back, farther north and away from her home.

Rinaldi said it was likely not possible to move it back because of stormwater management requirements in the northern part of the property.

He assured the Board of Supervisors traffic, at less than 40 peak hours trips per day, would be minimal. He also said trained and armed professionals would be on site during operating hours to ensure safety, outdoor surveillance cameras could be installed, and policies regarding the handling of firearms on the property — both inside and outside the building — would be enforced.

Chairman Tom Shepperd urged Rinaldi and Geddy to work with Barbara Washington and take steps to reduce the proximity of the building to her home by potentially removing the eight parking spots that touch her property line and installing shrubbery or a fence around her property to ensure no one trespasses onto her yard.

The range will be built in two phases, with design and cost determining whether the rifle-range or the pistol-range lanes are constructed first.

Rinaldi said the firearms — some of which will be for sale, and some for rented use at the facility — will be locked in safes, the ammunition will be secured and the facility will include controlled access to the equipment.

The projected hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, with extended hours for law enforcement and U.S. Department of Defense personnel wishing to use the range for training or certification.

Rinaldi said he has spoken with York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs, who supports the firing range and has expressed interest in having the department use it for training.

The Board of Supervisors also unanimously approved a wood recycling plant next door to the firing range. The plant, also owned by the Digges Company, would consist of a grinder that would be used intermittently to turn wood cleared from commercial sites into mulch, which would then be placed in large bins and sold to businesses on site.

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Correction 6/17: The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mark Rinaldi’s last name. A previous version of this article mistakenly spelled it Renaldi.