Apparently undeterred by vocal neighborhood opposition and the threat of a lawsuit, the County Commissioners yesterday voted to build a public gun range at Northern Landfill near Westminster.
The unanimous vote was hardly a surprise, despite a 90-minute public hearing last month that drew more than 100 people and much criticism. That hearing came less than a month after the commissioners had unanimously voted to locate a public gun range at the landfill.
"It was obvious their mind was made up before they even listened to us," said Craig Kadish, an attorney who lives near where the range is to be built and who yesterday told the commissioners they may have to answer to the neighborhood "in Circuit Court."
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the vote was a matter of fairness. "Fairness dictates we treat the sportsmen equally. The more people we've got in Carroll County, the more the need for a safe place to shoot guns," Mr. Brown said.
Earlier this year the commissioners struck a deal with the Carroll Sportsmen Association to build a range and at the time made it clear that the only question to be resolved on the issue was where to build.
When the commissioners decided July 13 to place the shooting range at Northern Landfill, nearly 35 families in the Tannery Manor community -- near where Mr. Kadish lives -- signed a petition opposing it. The residents said they were concerned with noise, safety and stray bullets and shell casings.
The gun range would cost about $35,000 to build, most of it coming from the sportsmen association. Hap Baker, the organization's president, said yesterday the commissioners have told him sportsmen should raise between $30,000 and $50,000.
They intend to do that by running a raffle and applying for a grant from the National Rifle Association.
The commissioners did not say when the range would be built or opened, but nothing is expected before next spring at the earliest.
Although a preliminary proposal calls for the range to be open from sunrise to sunset every day, the commissioners yesterday said those hours were unrealistic.
Many Tannery Manor residents who attended yesterday's voting session were angered that they were not given a chance to speak before the commissioners approved the gun range.
"I am appalled at the apparent contempt the commissioners have shown for our position, demonstrated at the last hearing when it became obvious they were not listening to a word that was being said," Marsha Raines wrote in a prepared statement she wanted to present to the commissioners.
"I was going to read this when I thought they would listen to us before voting, when I thought this was a public hearing," Ms. Raines said.
"To say we didn't listen flies in the face of the facts," Mr. Brown said, mentioning the 90-minute public hearing Aug. 3.
"We didn't guarantee you when you moved to Carroll County that you wouldn't hear the noise of the highway, that you wouldn't hear the noise of the landfill," Mr. Brown said.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell, explaining that the range would employ "state-of-the-art noise baffling," acknowledged that the commissioners had not seen any design specifications for the facility.
"I guess this is the price we pay for living in Carroll County," Mr. Kadish said.
The South Carroll Citizens' Committee and other activists have shot down range proposals at six other locations over the past decade, including a 1992 Hoods Mill proposal.
Several efforts for indoor ranges in various parts of the county also have been defeated because of community opposition or zoning restrictions, though Westminster planners have given their blessing to a proposed facility at the air business center on Route 97.
Proponents of the shooting range argue that with the county's increasing suburbanization, hunters have fewer places to go to practice their sport. The number of private gun ranges in the county has dropped from 16 to 13 in the past few years.