Supervisors shoot down Range 53 project

Monday's Board of Supervisors' meeting on Range 53 drew a standing room only crowd.
Monday's Board of Supervisors' meeting on Range 53 drew a standing room only crowd.

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A group fighting to open a firing range in Saucier suffered a big blow Monday. The Harrison County Board of Supervisors shot down the Range 53 project.

Partners of the project appealed to the board after the planning commission rejected the proposal. Now, the partners are preparing to fight the battle in court.

"We're trying to bring a $6 million facility to this coast that would bring economic development here and we're trying to do it right," said David Comstock, a partner of the Range 53 project.

Before an overflow crowd of about 200 people, backers of Range 53 described how the firing range would meet all safety and noise standards. The range would be located about a mile and a half off Shaw Road, north of Highway 53.

"I don't believe the proposed development is incompatible with the neighborhood. If you look at the radius of the actual neighbors, people who live two, three, four miles away, the neighbors are in support of this project," said Robert Schwartz, a Range 53 attorney.

"This is in the middle of a savannah pine forest. This is off a public road. There are no surrounding houses that are going to be affected by this development," he added.

Their arguments were met with strong opposition.

"Most of the houses here in Robinwood and the outlying neighborhoods, the other 15 subdivisions, are all probably within two miles of that," said Stanley Vance, an opponent of the project.

Opponents expressed noise, environmental, and safety concerns.

"I think it's going to be nerve wracking to me. I just moved up there in November, and if I would have known there's a skeet trap facing towards my house, I never would have brought my two-year-old up there," said Roy Rogers, who also opposes the project.

Many neighbors also claimed they were never told that a shooting range would be coming to their quiet, rural subdivisions.

"Oh, we gave all the notice that we were required to get, that's bunk. Notice to me is this, it's who's going to be affected," said Laura Paulk, a project opponent.

The supervisors sided with the neighbors.

"My motion is to deny the appeal and concur with the planning commission's decision, based on it not being compatible with the neighborhood," said Harrison County Supervisor Kim Savant.

They all voted 'no,' except for Supervisor Connie Rockco, who abstained. The crowd erupted in cheers after the vote.

"We're so happy that it did not pass. It would cause so much noise in our neighborhood," said Lorinda Daniels, a project opponent.

"Everyone there who was opposed felt that was justice served," said Leo Lovelace, another opponent.

"I knew it was coming. I knew it was going to be this way. We were told ahead of time we were going to lose. We'll go to court and it'll be settled there," said Comstock.

The project was initially approved by the county planning commission back in 2004. According to Supervisor Kim Savant, the issue re-surfaced last fall after neighbors found an error in the application process.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.