October 25, 2020

Shooting Range Raises Ire of Local Citizens

(Franklin, GA) — A group of Heard County citizens have filed several complaints recently in regards to a local outdoor shooting range and the Heard County Board of Commissioners have agreed to discuss any concerns about the range at their next meeting this Tuesday, August 25.

The shooting range in question is located just north of the city limits of Franklin at 3541 Franklin Parkway.

After some previous controversy about zoning and the issuance of a previous business license to the range, the Heard BOC voted unanimously (5-0) on August 22, 2013 to approve a Special Use Request for the Advantage Tactical Company allowing them to operate the outdoor range.

The Heard County planning commission recommended the application be approved with regulations including two special conditions: 1) Applicant must supply a noise level study; and 2) Operation Hours; Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The BOC also signed an amended zoning ordinance regulating the general development of local commercial shooting ranges on June 27, 2013. The amended range ordinance offers specific rules in regards to both indoor and outdoor shooting ranges.

The district commissioners that approved the Special Use Request for Advantage Tactical in 2013 were Sandi Allen (District 5), Frank Crook (District 4), Gwen Caldwell (District 3), Jacob Cammon (District 2), and Larry Hooks (District 1).

After the 2014 elections, the current board now includes Chairman Boone along with district commissioners Caldwell, Hooks, Joe Adams (District 5), Keri Denney (District 2), and Larry Hammond (District 4).

Some of complaints about the range filed by citizens at both the Sheriff’s Office and the Heard County Zoning Department recently deal with the noise of the range, the early hours that shooting is going on, and the type of weapons being fired including the use of exploding targets.

Several area residents have reported their homes shaking, pictures falling off their walls, and extremely loud gunfire and explosions especially on August 8, 2015. On that particular day, the Sheriff’s Office received four different calls from area residents.

The building and zoning office has also received 13 documented complaints over the past few weeks in regards to the range with many residents stating they are afraid for the safety of themselves, their children, and their pets.

The most serious accusations this year have come from a nearby neighbor to the range, Mr. Talmadge Phillips. Phillips filed an initial report with the Heard County Sheriff’s Office on February 8 of this year after he found two bullet holes in the roof of his home while cleaning out his gutters.

A police report from the HCSO indicates a meeting between all parties was held on March 18, 2015 to discuss the issue of the bullet holes in Phillps’ roof. Present at the meeting were Phillips, Commission Chair Lee Boone, Sheriff Ross Henry, Sgt. Dan Boswell, Operations Manager for Advantage Tactical Jim Peterson, and a few other residents of the area.

According to that same report, Peterson advised that he did not believe that the stray rifle fire came during one of his scheduled events, but it may be possible that someone could have been on the property of his range and shooting in the direction of Phillips’ residence.

Phillips said that Peterson offered to pay for the damage to his roof but would not accept blame for causing the damage.

Peterson was unable to be reached for a comment about the bullet holes Thursday afternoon, but Rusty Morris did speak with the Times~Journal via phone interview and indicated that his company (The AR Bunker of Newnan, GA) has been leasing the property for the past three or four months from the owners of Advantage Tactical.

Morris addressed the situation about the bullet holes in Phillips’ roof. “I know many people who run outdoor shooting ranges and when the local the citizens in an area decide they don’t want that range anymore, the first thing they do is start complaining that they have bullets in their house — and it is too much noise — and on and on and on,” said Morris. “I am not saying he (Phillips) doesn’t have bullet holes in his house I am just saying they didn’t come from the range.”

Morris does state that his organization is more than willing to try and improve conditions of the range if necessary.

“We feel that our range is safe, but we are more than willing to do anything the Sheriff’s Office and the board of commissioners wants us to do to make it safer,” Morris stated. “If they have any suggestions on how we can improve our safety we are ready to do that.” 

(Photo: Advantage Tactical Company, LLC on Facebook, February, 2013)

(Photo: Advantage Tactical Company, LLC on Facebook, February, 2013)

Morris confirmed that Peterson will be attending Tuesday night’s meeting to address any concerns.

Sgt, Dan Boswell, lead investigator for the Heard County Sheriff’s Office, spoke in-depth with HeardCitizen.com this week about his investigation into the bullet holes at Phillips’ residence.

“I got up on Mr. Phillips’ roof and used a digital compass to basically get a direction from which the bullets traveled from and they came from the area of the shooting range,” said Boswell. “Based on the angle they entered his roof, they had to come from the range — plus there were two successive rounds only about a foot apart indicating to me that the bullets came from an automatic weapon.”

Boswell does add that he believes the stray rifle fire was unintentional. “It does appear to be an accidental range discharge issue — it was not anything done on purpose,” Boswell stated.”As long as you have a range out there that is going to be a possibility.”

Sgt. Boswell also questions the current location of the range as it relates to safety of the nearby community.

“Another issue is the range is just sitting in a bad place,” states Boswell. “You have a school in one direction, you have houses in another direction plus you have guys that aren’t just shooting standard weapons — you have folks out there shooting everything including exploding targets. If you are shooting exploding targets there needs to be some sort of regulation in reference to that because that is not just a gun going off that is an explosion. Whether it’s the target or the actual chemical itself — it is a dangerous thing and I think that is something where you should have the approval not just from the commissioners but from the people who live in that area.”

The Sheriff’s Office is also investigating an additional incident which occurred last Sunday afternoon, August 16 when Phillips again called the Sheriff’s Office to report gunfire near his residence.

Heard County Deputies Mark Phillips and Dalton Pate were dispatched to the residence and according to their official report — upon arrival at the property — they both witnessed gunfire rounds whistling though the trees near Mr. Phillips’ residence.

Phillips and Pate proceeded immediately to the shooting range and found three men who stated they had permission to use the range from the owners. According to the report, the three men were shooting at a berm parallel to Phillips home meaning they were firing in the general direction of Phillips’ property.

After finding out they were shooting in the direction of a residence, the three men expressed their concern for Phillips and agreed to leave the range for the day and to notify the owners of the problem.

“We are all afraid for our lives because of flying lead,” said Talmadge Phillips earlier this week. “This has been going on for far too long already and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. It is not possible for me and my family or any of our neighbors to enjoy our properties with any peace.”

HeardCitizen.com met with Phillips and several of those neighbors this week and many of them voiced similar concerns about safety, noise, infringement to their property rights and diminished values to their homes.

“I have obtained a copy of the Heard County range ordinance,” added Mr. Phillips. “It states that the range must have a range safety officer on the premises at all times during range operation and they are just not following this rule as well as other rules. We hear them shooting over there very early in the mornings even on Sundays at times and sometimes before 8:00 a.m.”

According to Morris, the range does allow members to shoot on the range without the presence of a safety officer — but only after they have been through proper safety training. Morris says that members are able to access the range with a security code at the gate, but he also adds that the range does have two safety officers present any time they are teaching a course.

The group of complaining residents as a whole emphasize that they are not at all opposed to gun rights in general and some stated they even enjoy going to shooting ranges themselves, however they feel the location just outside the city limits on Franklin Parkway is just too close to their homes, the Heard County Middle School and other businesses — especially considering the type of weapons that are being fired on the range and the use of exploding targets.

“I am a mother of two small boys –thus, my chief concern is about their safety,” said Amanda Headley, a nearby resident of the range. “My 7-year old doesn’t even want to play outside due to the noise produced by rapid fire automatic weapons and exploding targets.”

Headley argues, “Jim Peterson of Advantage Tactical posted a comment on Facebook two years ago, stating that a sound engineer had presented evidence that before the sound travels off the range property, the noise level is reduced to that of a normal office conversation. I live approximately a half mile from the range, and the noise is very audible inside my home with televisions and normal household appliances running. The vibrations have even set off glass breaks on our home security system and shaken our floors.”

Commission Chairman Lee Boone stated this week that he is very concerned about the situation and that Peterson has agreed to cease firing the more powerful weapons up until Tuesday’s meeting.

“I am trying to gather all the information that I can — I don’t want to go into this commissioners meeting with half information,” stated Chairman Boone. “I have asked Mr. Peterson to suspend any activities over there with respect to high-powered rifles, assault weapons, or automatic weapons and he has agreed — stating that he also wants to find out what happened over there last Sunday. At our board meeting Tuesday, I am going to let the board know what is going on and inform them about the incident that happened last Sunday. I am taking this very seriously — it is under investigation and we are trying to get to the bottom of what happened.”

(UPDATE: Commission Chairman Lee Boone reported to HeardCitizen.com Friday afternoon that all activities at the shooting range are now shut down pending Tuesday’s meeting)

Boone did confirm that according to his discussions with Jim Peterson, Tannerite brand binary exploding rifle targets have been used recently on the range and that Peterson agrees it probably is a bad idea.

Heard County Sheriff Ross Henry also made a statement this week regarding the outdoor range.

“I was against the location of the shooting range from the beginning. I told Mr. Peterson from the start I thought it might not be a good idea,” said Henry. “I suggested that he go to all the neighbors and let them know his plans and get their approval because it is a populated area at the edge of the city limits. That was a year before the range actually opened and since that time no one said anything else to me about it and I didn’t know they had actually opened up the shooting range until I saw something in the paper (in 2013) about an event they were having.”

“To my knowledge none of my officers have ever practiced or trained there. This is not about gun rights, everyone knows I am a gun person — this is about safety and peace in the community,” added Sheriff Henry. “I am a firm believer in the right to bear arms but with that comes a lot of responsibility. People have the right to feel safe living in their own home and children should feel safe playing in their own yard. The noise is a huge factor as well for the surrounding neighbors. Hopefully, a temporary order can be obtained to shut the range down until further research can be done.”

The Heard County Board of Commissioners meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. this Tuesday, August 25 at the court-house on the square in Franklin. The proceedings are open to the public and local citizens are allowed to make brief public comments at the end of the meeting.

Stay tuned to HeardCitizen.com for a full report after the meeting.

 

 

Comments

  1. I raised these concerns 2 years ago before the range was voted in and got blasted. These poor citizens might as well move because they are probably stuck with the range now and I doubt it will get much better. Still cant believe our county leaders would have allowed it so close to a school! http://www.heardcitizen.com/heard-boc-to-vote-on-final-approval-for-controversial-shooting-range

  2. Sheila phillips says

    No one came around and told nothing of a shooting range. We had made calls to 911 about gun shots before it opened cause we didn’t know what was going on. I am afraid for my son to ride his bike or play outside as well. It is just not fair for them to have to stay in and not play outside.

  3. Greg Holcomb says

    I have to agree with “Reality” since I also raised the same questions as well as I spoke to some of the commissioners, Two of them told me they were against it but when it came time to vote all were in favor. I have never been to the range but have had several calls about it and I have heard horror stories about there actions. Some questions I have are who is running the place since the owners are from Atlanta? Does the range master have any training on running a firing range? Has there been any back ground checks on the people over there? I don’t live close to the range but I am close enough that I get woke up every Saturday and Sunday morning usually around 8am to the sounds of some high powered rifles. I would hope that the commissioners can find a legal way to close them down at least until a independent person can come in and evaluate the range and its surroundings to see if it should ever open back up. As a 28 year veteran law enforcement officer I know that firing ranges are needed for people to learn how to shoot and properly handle a weapon but I don’t think they should learn this close to a school and with so many houses near by. It is a bad location and I hope that it will be moved to another location out in the country where there are no houses and for sure no school close by. Thanks to Comm. Boone for taking the complainants serious and for taking time to look into this dangerous situation.

    • Sandi Allen says

      Greg, I was one of the two who was against the range and how they were operating when they first opened up. Our attorney worked with Chainman Boone and set parameters and guidelines and made them do a noise study and had guidelines of operations and they have not been followed. It is up to Codes enforcement and SO to make sure those are followed or now the Commissioners can pull license since all this gas come up. I fought hard against the opening of this and how this was operating. When everything was set up I knew that if there were problems we could now take action.I am sorry that this has disturbed the citizens of Heard County.
      Sandi Allen

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