July 29, 2014

Horry County staff identifies best site for possible shooting range

Horry County staff identified a nearly 1,200-acre tract off S.C. 90 as its top location for a shooting range if Horry County officials opt to open one.

Horry County staff identified a nearly 1,200-acre tract off S.C. 90 as its top location for a shooting range if Horry County officials opt to open one.

The land, owned by the Horry County Solid Waste Authority, was selected based on a number of criteria, including improvement costs, proximity to residential areas, accessibility and size of property. Other sites evaluated was the abandoned Horry County Coquina Pit off S.C. 9, a tract off S.C. 319 in the multi-county business park, collaborating with the city of Conway to improve its shooting range on S.C. 905, and the Cool Springs Business Park off S.C. 319.

Steve Gosnell, assistant administrator for infrastructure and regulation in Horry County, said the selection was simply a staff recommendation and Horry County Council still must pull the trigger on the idea.

“The (Solid Waste Authority) tract came out head and shoulders above the rest,” Gosnell said. “It would be the most advantageous location if the county wanted to get into the shooting range business.”

Horry County began talking about opening a shooting range in 2013, when gun companies began announcing plans to move their operations to Horry County. PTR Industries moved its operations to the Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor. Ohio-based Ithaca Gun Co. said in 2013 it planned to move its operations here, but missed a deadline earlier this month that would have provided them incentive to move to Horry County. A third company, Stag Arms, continues to talk with Horry County officials as it plans to expand in either South Carolina or Texas.

Horry County’s infrastructure and regulation committee this week examined the research county staff members compiled about the potential ranges, which include pistol, rifle and possibly a shotgun range.

The preliminary plans include benches, a shed to shoot from and berms surrounding the range.

Horry County has three privately owned shooting ranges – Myrtle Beach Indoor Shooting Range, 707 Indoor Shooting Range and The Gun Store & Indoor Range – and no publicly owned ranges.

Earlier this year, County Council approved an amendment to its zoning ordinance to identify locations where commercial and county-owned firearm training and sports facilities can locate.

Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf said he hopes council members keep in mind future residential growth if and when it decides on the location of the shooting range.

“One of my concerns is not only the location for today, but 10, 20 years down the road,” Schwartzkopf said.

Funding for the shooting range is also a question. Officials have not given an estimate on the cost to open the range on the solid waste authority site, but Gosnell did identify a 75-25 matching federal grant, where the county would pick up 25 percent of the cost.

The grant is through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which helped open the James O. Thomason Shooting Range in Spartanburg County last September.

Gosnell said the county’s parks and recreation department would be in charge of the range.

“Some staff will be needed to man it,” he said.

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