CRESTVIEW — The city is one step closer to building a new shooting range for the police department, but not everyone is happy with the proposed location.
The city council unanimously voted to annex a 100-acre area of land between Arena Road and Raspberry Road at its April 9 meeting. The city already owned the land prior to the meeting, but was still under county jurisdiction.
A section of the newly-annexed property is being set aside for a proposed shooting range for the Crestview Police Department.
Mark Anderson lives next to the area being proposed for the shooting range. He made a scheduled presentation to the city council on behalf of several of his neighbors after the annexation vote.
He claimed a shooting range would pose safety concerns for his family, lower their quality of life due to noise concerns, and drive down property values in the area.
“None of us are very happy with it,” Anderson said
Police Chief Tony Taylor addressed those concerns, stating that the range would not be open to the public and therefore will not be in use every day. He also said the department will be installing 24-foot protective berms to prevent property damage, four feet taller than the 20-foot requirement.
Taylor said that the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has a range nearby that has not generated any noise complaints. That facility is located on Grimes Avenue near the Ferdon Heights neighborhood.
City councilman Doug Faircloth talked about the difficulty in trying to build an outdoor shooting range in a location that does not disturb anyone.
“I live probably three miles from (the sheriff’s department shooting range) at least, maybe farther,” Faircloth said. “I can sit on my patio and hear every shot fired. It’s going to be difficult to put a firing range in a place where nobody can hear.”
Anderson also said that the police department started clearing the land in late February, and that he and neighbors were not notified in advance.
“Nobody came out and discussed it,” Anderson said. “Nobody came out to speak to us until after everything was in the works. I don’t believe that’s very transparent.”
Faircloth questioned police commander Andrew Schneider, who was providing the council more information on the berms and noise reduction measures, as to whether the property owners were notified.
“When I toured the property, I was told that the neighbors had been checked with, advised what was going on out there and really didn’t have any objections,” Faircloth said.
Schneider said that was the case.
Anderson, however, disagreed with the claim that the property owners had been notified.
“I see how we’re spinning around a few things,” Anderson said. “The land owners were not notified, as was said right here. I was not notified. I’m not going to call anyone a liar, but I was not notified.”
Wayne Steele, director of public services for the city, attempted to clear up any confusion on the issue.
“We had not reached the process for public notification yet. That’s the reason that ball was dropped,” Steele said. “We didn’t intend for someone to go out there and start clearing the property yet.”
Steele explained that the city had not yet annexed the property, and therefore it was not in city jurisdiction. Chief Taylor had received permission from Okaloosa County to begin clearing the site.
“I think it’s just a little misunderstanding on everyone’s part,” Steele said. “We didn’t intend to upset the property owners with our process of trying to provide a shooting range for the police department. We were just going forth in good faith thinking we were accomplishing a much-needed project.”
Anderson raised the prospect of moving the proposed location to a nearby wastewater spray field. That location is already owned by the city and lies within the city limits.
Steele could not say whether it would be possible to build the shooting range on that site, noting that there could be issues with building the range so close to a proposed western bypass around the city.
“There’s not a good location that the city already has, that we already own property, for a desirable location … that I can think of,” Steele said.
Mayor David Cadle suggested a further meeting with city officials to look at other potential sites. The council agreed that more discussion was needed and all work on the current site would be put on hold until further notice.