October 23, 2013

Horry County pondering public shooting range

Move to coincide with announcement of two gun manufacturers in business park

Horry County is exploring the idea of opening up to two shooting ranges, with one possibly in the Cool Springs Business Park amid the announcement of two gun manufacturers moving to the park in coming years.

“That is a possibility,” said County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. “Councilman [Brent] Schulz brought us a program that [S.C. Department of Natural Resources] has for some public shooting ranges. This could be a possibility to tie that in.”

Earlier this year, PTR Industries announced it plans to bring its entire plant of 145 employees by 2016 to the Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor. Earlier this month, Ithaca Gun Co. said it plans to open its southeastern plant in the business park and bring 120 jobs. A third company, Stag Arms, is contemplating moving part of its operation to Horry County or Texas.

With the two definite plans for gun manufacturers in the business park, county officials thought it would be a great idea to explore bringing a public shooting range there, which would also allow the companies to test their products.

“They still have to test their guns before they put them out to retail to test fire them,” Lazarus said, adding both companies have indicated they are each considering an indoor shooting area for their products. “I would anticipate that we would possibly run it through our parks and recreation program or something of that nature. We just have to make sure we can meet the criteria that DNR has set forth and then we’ll apply for it and hopefully get it.”

Schulz said the county is trying to look for two sites at once.

“Right now we’re looking at a lot of different sites,” he said. “We’ve looked at about five already and we’re just trying to find the ones that would be safe and easy to get to and where there’s no noise problems in the future.”

Currently, Horry County has two privately owned shooting ranges – Myrtle Beach Indoor Shooting Range and The Gun Store & Indoor Range – and no publicly owned ranges.

The county’s Public Safety Committee is considering Thursday whether it will recommend to the full County Council an amendment to its zoning ordinance that pertains to firearm training and sports facilities. The amendment would rely on the National Rifle Association’s design manual for ranges. The amendment restricts where commercial and county-owned firearm training and sports facilities can locate. It also outlines the application process, which includes a lead management plan when surrounding waters could be impacted, a safety plan, a sound study and a noise abatement plan.

The application would be considered by the Zoning Administrator before being forwarded to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission would then conduct a public hearing to give the public a chance to speak on the matter. The application would then be forwarded to the full council.

But this plan isn’t that far along.

“We’re in the infancy stages of it,” Schulz said.

If the Public Safety committee sends the amendment with a positive approval, it will then be considered by the Infrastructure and Regulation Committee before it is taken to the planning commission. Then, it moves on for full council consideration.

Brett Witt, spokesman for the DNR, said it can be a time-consuming process to secure funding, which is not offered by the DNR. Instead, the department assists communities that are looking for funding for shooting ranges.

“We recently helped remodel and add a pistol range to an existing range in Spartanburg,” Witt said.

Witt was referring to the James O. Thomason Shooting Range in Spartanburg County near Pauline that dedicated a new pistol shooting range in September. The new pistol range offers nine shooting lanes for the public to use, three of which are barrier free, according to a DNR press release. Other upgrades include new shooting benches, barrier-free access, improved parking area, sidewalks and concrete flooring in the rifle sheds.

Witt said funding for the pistol shooting range came in part from the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which provides funding to states from an excise tax on firearms and ammunition.

He said Horry County, or any county, could always aim to secure funding from the Pittman-Robertson fund.

“We certainly can help them in any way they need it,” Witt said.

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