CONWAY — A Myrtle Beach legislator said he has found federal funding for two shooting ranges in Horry County, and a County Councilman unveiled one more possible location for a range.
Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) told the county’s public safety committee Thursday he has found federal funding – enough for two ranges – that is relatively “non competitive” for Horry County to look into if it’s interested in a shooting and archery range.
Clemmons met with Horry County Councilman Brent Schulz two weeks ago about the idea and the two spoke with officials from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Clemmons said DNR officials asked that the county handle the procurement side of things, or have the proper regulations and ordinances in the place, while the state will handle acquiring the federal funds.
Gun talk has been at the tip of county and regional officials’ tongues recently because two gun manufacturing companies – PTR Industries and Ithaca Gun Co. – have announced they plan to move all or part of their businesses to Horry County’s Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor. A third company, Stag Arms, is debating between Horry County and an area in Texas for an expansion site.
Clemmons said the proposed shooting range plans call for a long range with a 600-yard component, a 300-yard range, a short range and an archery range at each of the two proposed locations. Also, he said, he was hoping the range could be beneficial to local law enforcement for training purposes.
He said the location of one of the ranges in the business park would sweeten the deal for more gun manufacturers interested in Horry County. Many gun manufacturing officials have said they will move to other states or expand in other states because of stricter gun laws in the states they are currently operating in, such as Connecticut.
“One particular neat derivative of this is, if council is in agreement to place one of the two ranges at the site of the two new gun companies, Ithaca and PTR, I believe that Cool Springs Park becomes even more of a magnet to other gun companies that center around this public gun range,” he said. “I think this ordinance is the key to get this here.”
Councilman Schulz said he wanted to make sure the public knew this is strictly for publicly owned ranges and does not impact privately owned ranges. Both PTR and Ithaca have indicated to county officials that they plan to build indoor ranges within their facilities. These proposed ranges, however, would be open to both the public and the private companies.
The county currently has three privately owned ranges registered with the DNR. County councilmen, including Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf, have said they have been contacted by Horry County residents in support of a public shooting range.
John Danford, senior planner with the county’s planning department, said the ordinance draft began in June 2012 after the department examined the NRA Range Sourcebook.
“The target is kind of moving on this,” he said, adding the NRA was sent a draft of the ordinance Wednesday. “What this ordinance is intended to do is set up the technical review process as well as the public hearing process to look at these ranges as they come in. That way the public can review them and the planning department can review them.”
Danford said the ordinance did not address parking, space requirements, landscaping requirements, setbacks or specific zoning districts outside of broad zoning criteria for a reason.
“We wanted an open dialogue between the county, the owner-operator and the public when looking at these things, recognizing that they’re all pretty much individual designs and can fit in in all sorts of different environments,” Danford said. “The most important aspect when we look at high-velocity projectiles is mitigating the ... projectile itself as well as the noise.”
He said research shows that so long as such factors can be mitigated, the shooting ranges can be placed wherever they fit in the zoning plan.
“It’s going to be up to the applicant to show us and the public that they have, indeed, mitigated those,” Danford said.
The current draft of the ordinance says the application process to locate one of the shooting ranges goes as far as the planning commission, but Schulz said he would like to see all applications got to the full County Council so councilmen know if one is being proposed in their district.
“I think it’s important enough of a use that I’d like to see the different locations,” Schulz said, requesting that County Attorney Arrigo Carotti look into the legality of making the full council review part of the ordinance.
“I think it’s a good ordinance,” said Councilman Al Allen said. “It’s not going to affect anybody’s rights as far as firearm owners or users.”
Schulz said he has seen prototypes for the planned ranges and they are surrounded by berms and built with their surroundings in mind.
“They’re first-class facilities,” he said, adding another location he has looked at is toward the back of the county’s Solid Waste Authority property on S.C. 90. He said he would like to see a mandate that requires a range officer on duty when the facilities are open, which would likely be a county employee.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.