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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bedford Planning Commission Denies Range Rezoning Request

The Lynchburg News and Advance reports today that the Bedford County Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny the rezoning request of Timothy Hooper, resulting in a set-back for his efforts to reopen the facility for the tactical training of law enforcement, military personnel and private citizens.  Hooper has one more shot at his attempt to reopen his training facility - before the Bedford County Board of Supervisors at a future meeting.  He will however have to overcome the recommendation of the commission that the Board deny the request.

As reported yesterday, the shooting range, located at 6010 Thomas Jefferson Road, was founded in 1983 as a specialized training site. The 21-acre range is centrally located on Hooper’s 80-acre family farm.

Hooper's attorney Richard Livingston told the News and Advance that there had been virtually no complaints from the surrounding community.  Livingston said:
This is not a recreational facility. It’s an instructional facility,” Livingston said. “This is professionals instructing professionals and nobody benefits from that more than the general public.”
There were some like neighbor Mickey Russell who supported Hooper's request, and others like Greg Eaton, whose daughter attends a nearby school who opposed it.  How Eaton could suggest the sound of gun fire could somehow could lead to school violence is beyond reason.  The school is about a mile from Hooper's property. Others said the noise of a range would cause property values to decrease.  These are similar arguments that gun owners have had to deal with in range discussion and are becoming more prevelent.  Unfortunately, Hooper's range is not protected by Virginia's range law because it appears from what is known that he was operating a range without the proper permits required by Bedford County based on his property's current zoning.

There was a second related issue that was also to be considered, the issuance of a special use permit for the range to operate.  The commissioners voted 5-1 to postpone a decision on a recommendation on that issue pending a review by the county sheriff’s office. Hooper would need the county board of supervisors to allow the rezoning to pass before the permit could be valid according to the commissioners.

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