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Not in our backyard: residents argue against shooting range

Ronnie Royal’s t-shirt summed up the feelings of dozens of Davie residents attending the board of adjustment hearing for a gun range off Sheffield and Duke Whittaker roads last week.

“I Support The NRA, Not The RMA,” his shirt read, the RMA referring to Recoil Management Academy, which had applied for a special use permit to build the range. Board members heard some five hours of testimony before continuing the meeting to Wednesday night, Sept. 23, when they were expected to make their decision. (See the results of that vote Wednesday night at www.ourdavie.com.)

Recoil is owned by Kirk and Christina Peavy, who requested the gun range on 40 of the 138 acres they own. They were represented by two attorneys, and engineer and a ballistic expert.

Opponents were also represented by an attorney. Dozens of residents spoke, the majority of them opposing the plan.

To grant the permit, the board must find: that the use will not harm public health and safety; that it meets required conditions; that it will not substantially injure the value of adjoining property; that it will be in harmony with the area; and it will be consistent with the Davie County Land Development plan.

Almost all of the opponents, before speaking, said they support the Second Amendment; and many of the comments referred to the range not being in harmony with the area.

“Life in the Sheffield area would never be the same,” said Jean Cleary, who along with her mother, lives adjacent to the proprosed range. “We’re opposed based on personal safety … noise and the fear of injury.”

Mitch Massencup of Bear Creek Church Road said the Winston-Salem Police Department closed its Clemmons range because of safety – rounds were leaving the site.

Kim Crawford mentioned the two- to three-mile range that bullets could fly if not contained in the range. “There’s a lot of life in that two to three mile radius,” she said.

Dairy farmer Dale Blackwelder, who lives two miles away, said that excess noise can harm a cow’s health and milk production, which would be another blow to an already struggling business.

Jody Blackwelder of Sheffield Road said that what Recoil Management Academy advertises is nothing like what it says it will be on the permit application, saying Recoil’s own witnesses said the facility would be for tactical training as well as shooting. “Realize what you’re voting for.”

Anita Allen, a licensed mental health therapist who lives on nearby Georgia Road, said the facility will cause stress among area residents, which leads to a myriad of health problems. “The noise has been compared to a war zone,” she said. “Reducing stress helps with medical problems.”

Charles Baker, a board member at Community Covenant Church, which abuts the range on three sides, said the site is the wrong location for such a facility. “Shots will miss the range. It will disrupt services. A church is a seven day a week facility.” He said the pastor did not sign a letter presented by the Peavys. “Our biggest concern is the destruction of the community – peaceful, serene, calm.”

Reba McInnis, who operates a teaching Century Farm on Sheffield Road, said it is difficult to keep childrens’ attention with gunshots in the background.

Todd Mears said his family lives nearby, and a big part of their home-schooling lessons include nature walks, taking care of animals and other outdoor activities. He said he put building their house on the site on hold pending the outcome of the hearing. He has a business that employs 12 local residents. “I choose to live in the country,” he said. “If I don’t live here, there’s no need for my business to be here. The facility is not in harmony with the life we’ve built in Davie County.”

Luke Felts of Harmony said that Recoil didn’t provide sufficient supporting data to some of its claims. “The surrounding community would have their peace and harmony no more.”

Lorna Doviak of Duke Whittaker Road said her family’s “peaceful way of living stopped abruptly in the fall of 2019,” after the Peavys bought the property. She had called the Davie County Sheriff’s Department about excessive gunshots, and when walking the property line, a deputy told her that shots into her trees likely came from the Peavy’s property. “He has continued to show a disregard for my family’s safety,” saying that drones from the Peavys have also flown over their property.

Tom Davenport of Georgia Road said noise pollution would be a big problem. “They (users of the range) will create noise pollution and drive home to their quiet neighborhoods.”

Ronnie Royal said he has heard shots through the woods, and that a mobile home was struck by a stray bullet.

“It’s rapid fire,” Tim Baker said of the shooting at the site. “What will it be like when it’s up and running?”

Paul Ijames of Morganton still owns property in the area, and said it would be hard to sell with a shooting range next door. “Everything that goes on in a community should be harmonious.”

Phillip Shore said he owns land for hunting next to another shooting range, and that the number of waterfowl reduced drastically once the range opened.

Gwen Roye said “Our rural and agricultural living is worth preserving.”

Erma Jeffries said she was offended by Recoil’s website and online presence that spouted “misinformation … a narrative put out to incite fear in citizens.”

U.S. Navy veteran Paul Rogers lives on Sheffield Road, and said shooting from the site is already negatively affecting his traumatic brain injury. “My anxiety has increased.”

Others spoke in favor of the proposal.

Tracy Barnes of Advance, who grew up in Sheffield, said the facility would be a great place to teach children to use firearms, and to hone their skills. Her daughter is on the 4-H shooting team. “I’m 100 percent for it. I think it will bring great things to Davie County.”

Terry Bergeron of Cornelius said he has worked with Kirk Peavy, and his plan is about giving back, not making money. “He’s gone above and beyond to make sure it’s safe.”

Andrew Johnson said shooting at another range didn’t bother animals, and said a “no” vote would infringe on Peavy’s Constitutional rights. “I see it as an asset to the community. I would be more concerned with hunters than this facility.”

Nick Devitis of Van Zandt Road said his property value went up instead of down, despite a gun range nearby. He said shots from that range also didn’t bother horses.

Nathan Weymouth of Jack Booe Road said he’s 100 percent in favor of the project, saying that safety is the No. 1 goal. He also said the community would be safer with SWAT teams traveling to and from the site for training, and that school shooting teams could use the facility. “It’s creating a safer environment for all of us.”

The board of adjustments acts as a quasi-judicial board, meaning that any appeals would go to the court system. They were sworn to hear credible evidence.

There was back and forth between attorneys and witnesses for both sides, many of it focused on the permit application and how it matched or didn’t match other plans.

Peavy said safety will be the No. 1 priority because he lives on the property with his wife and children. “We’re taking our family into account, as well as the community.”

He said anyone who joins will be subjected to a criminal background check, and that people can’t just drive up, pay money and begin shooting. Recoil has a list of bylaws all members must adhere to.

A “shoot house,” he said, would be open to law enforcement only. No loaded weapons would be allowed on the property until the person is in the shooting position, and that all shooters would go through safety courses, either there or proof of having it elsewhere. “We have a lot of accountability in place because we live on that property.”

A helicopter pad is planned for safety reasons in case of an injury, he said, and would be open for local emergency use.

He said hours would be 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and they would curtail shooting for the church with a 14-day notice of an event. There are no plans to use explosives, which are legal and he has used in the past on his property, one reason being he doesn’t want his equipment blown up, Peavy said.

On cross examination, he said Recoil’s bylaws were not submitted as part of the application. He was also asked if bullets had ever left his property. “Not with ballistic proof,” he said.

W. Kirk Sanders, attorney for the opposition, mentioned a charity shoot that was canceled by the county, and Peavy said it wasn’t held, but that friends and family had been shooting on the property.

“What are we getting? Who knows?,” Sanders said.

There was also discussion whether the project is an outdoor shooting range, as requested in the permit, or a training facility, which could fall into a different county ordinance. Board attorney Dan Womble said the application was not for a training facility.