The Sussex County Board of Adjustment has denied an application for a gun range near the intersection of Route 9 and Gravel Hill Road east of Georgetown.
At its May 3 meeting, the board voted 4-0 against the proposal. Making the motion for denial, board member Kevin Carson said the applicant did not demonstrate that the gun range would not have a substantial impact on surrounding neighborhoods.
Applicant and property owner John Legg had applied for a special-use exception for a rifle or pistol range for the property at 20093 Gravel Hill Road, south of Route 9. Legg, who has owned the property for 12 years, runs a construction business from the site. A special-use exception was required because a gun range is not a permitted use in AR-1, agricultural-residential, zoning.
The proposal met with opposition from area property owners who cited several issues, including excessive noise, concerns for safety and loss of property values. During an April 19 public hearing, residents turned out to voice those concerns.
“This is not a Second Amendment issue,” said resident Maureen Kendrick. “It is more a rights of the few versus the rights of the many.”
Hal Dukes, the applicant's attorney, said the parcel has been used as a firing range for generations.
Legg said family and friends use the range, which is also used by American Responder Services, based in Rehoboth Beach, for firearms training classes. Legg said he has never charged a fee to anyone to use the range.
American Responder Services co-founder Ron Hagan told the board that locations for gun ranges in eastern Sussex County are very limited. He and his staff have been providing training in the safe use of firearms, including training to obtain a concealed deadly weapon permit, since 2018.
Hagan, a retired Delaware State Police captain who is also a member of the Milton Fire Department, operates a gun shop on Hebron Road in Rehoboth Beach. Hagan said since the start of the year, ARS had conducted 13 live-fire training sessions and 10 private sessions adding up to 51 hours of range time.
He said the shop has installed a firing simulator to reduce range time, but the state requires live firing to obtain a concealed weapon permit.
“They have been operating this site without a permit, and only applied for one after complaints were filed by neighboring property owners,” Kendrick said.
At the May 3 meeting, board members watched videos shot by Hagan that captured the noise from a shooting session compared to traffic noise from surrounding roads. Hagan said ambient traffic noise recorded decibel readings as high or higher than from 10 feet behind the firing line.