Board of Adjustment shoots down town’s request for police firing range

GEORGETOWN – The Bethany Beach Police Department came up blank in its bid for a departmental shooting range on unincorporated agricultural/residential property east of Frankford.
By a 4-1 vote, the Sussex County Board of Adjustment March 21 shot down the town of Bethany’s request for a special-use exception to operate a shooting range in the Blackwater Road and Burbage Road area.
The five-member board had tabled the matter following a Feb. 29 public hearing at which more than a dozen persons publicly opposed the proposal. Thirty-four people in all tendered opposition.
“I am not in favor,” said board of adjustment member Brent Workman. “I think it will affect adjacent properties and neighborhoods. There are 34 people against it. There has to be a reason they are against it. I just think it is out of place.”
The Bethany Police Department was seeking to operate the range as a training facility for its department only in efforts to earn and maintain certification. Testimony at the public hearing indicated the department would utilize the facility several weekdays from the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Norman “Bud” Richard, Jeff Judson and board chairman Dale Callaway also opposed the request. John Mills voted in favor of the request.
“To me I can’t see where a single police department would want their own firing range when they’ve had to qualify for their certificates for years and have used other ranges,” said Mr. Rickard. “I think it is something they want. I don’t think it is something they need. Naturally we all want our police officers to be trained at the utmost in this time and age. But I don’t think this is the place for it. They’ve been qualifying for years at other ranges. I don’t think this is proper place to put it.”
Mr. Hudson said the proposed location of the range “is a growing area.” He added that the 34 present in opposition did present evidence at least “in their minds that it will substantially affect adversely the uses of adjacent neighboring properties in that area.”
“I can appreciate concerns the opposition had. Personally I think their concerns were speculative,” said Mr. Mills. “We did hear that there has already been issues in the past with hunting, or at least from shooting. We’re talking about a controlled environment.”
“The largest concern by the opposition relates to noise generated from the range,” said Mr. Callaway. “The range will be located outdoors where the sound of repeated shots fired will reverberate throughout the area. Neighbors testified that noises from nearby trains and hunting activities can be heard from a great distance.”
Mr. Rickard also noted the wildlife factor. Testimony at the Feb. 29 hearing indicated the presence of bald eagles in the area.
“Certainly you don’t want to disturb things like that,” said Mr. Rickard.
“The proposed use is out of character for the neighborhood and there are residential properties nearby,” said Mr. Callaway.
The decision can be appealed to the state Superior Court.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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