GEORGETOWN — City officials listened to comments for and against a proposed gun range in a rural city-owned park on Monday, and then voted to grant a 25-year lease to the gun club wanting to build the range.
After spending 20 months reviewing plans and researching the details, Georgetown City Council members were ready to decide whether to accept the offer from the committee that wanted to lease a large portion of the land near the entrance of Oubache Park southwest of the city for an outdoor gun range.
The city purchased the 18-acre Oubache Park from the Sportsman's Club in 1994. It consisted of a swimming pool, four buildings, a river, a gravel road to some undeveloped campgrounds, and open fields. The city operated the swimming pool in 1995 and 1996, but closed it in 1997, citing the high cost of running it. The park has not been in use since then.
Committee member Keith Walker brought a proposal to the city council in July, 2011 about building a shooting range and starting a gun club at Oubache Park. The four-member committee has spent the intervening months developing the plans for the range, obtaining not-for-profit status, and working with city officials to work out the details of a lease for the property.
About 80 people sat and stood in the audience, many of whom wore "Support the Gun Range" stickers.
Alice Galyen of rural Georgetown said she wants a place for kids to learn how to shoot safely.
"This will be good for Georgetown," Galyen said.
Georgetown resident Don Weil said he attended numerous turkey shoots during his time as president of the Sportsman's Club, and there were never any problems.
"I don't think the people here will have any safety concerns to worry about" Weil said.
The most vocal opponents to the range owned property near Oubache Park.
Travis Cox said he owns the land south of the park, and that he has safety concerns about the range.
"You will be firing guns towards my property," Cox said. "Are all the shots going to hit the berm?"
Cox said that the range will prevent him from building a house on the property in the future, and he said he would fight the range in court if the council approved it.
Charles Redmond of Georgetown said the noise from the range would interfere with his enjoyment of his back yard.
Lesli Cox, who owns land near the park, invited audience members to put their children or grandchildren on the other side of the protective berm when people are shooting at it.
Kathy Gunter of Georgetown said she was disappointed that the range was going to be approved.
Council members voted 7-1 in favor of the lease, with Darin Readnour casting the only "no" vote.
Alderman Adam Hart said that, under the terms of the agreement, the committee will be able to lease the land from the city at a cost of $1 a year for 25 years. The committee will not have an option to purchase the land after that time. The city will maintain an access easement into the park, and the committee will have to maintain a $2 million to $3 million insurance policy per incident for the range.
The committee will first clear a 50-yard pistol range at the park, and then will set bricks measuring six feet by two feet by two feet on the back and sides of the range as a protective berm, and would then cover the bricks with dirt and sand.
In the future, Walker wants to pour a concrete pad and build a 50-foot-long canopy for the shooters, and to build a rifle range, as well.
He said he has received "astronomical support" for the club and range, and expects to have 75 members register as soon as the club begins accepting applications.
Walker said he does not think that the range will have set hours or requirements that a committee members must be present when using the range.
Most likely, club members will have open access to the range, he said, although the club may limit shooting on Sunday mornings, and the range will not have lights to discourage night shooting.
"We will follow National Rifle Association standards," Walker said. "I would rather have people shooting at that range than shooting off the railroad bridge south of Georgetown or along the riverbank."
Mayor Dennis Lucas said the range will be a good thing for the city in the long run, and may attract visitors who will then spend money in local stores and restaurants.
"The citizens of Georgetown will run this range, and they are connected to the community, so they will run it right," Lucas said.