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Busy shotgun range may face legal action

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Residents who live near the Founders Ranch in northeast Torrance County have advised Torrance County commissioners that they have retained a lawyer and are prepared to go to court to stop the gunfire at the facility’s shotgun range if officials refuse to act.

“I don’t believe it’s the citizens’ duty to enforce the law,” Jim Donis told the commissioners at last week’s meeting.

The cost of bringing a lawsuit could be as much as $20,000, he said. “We can raise it, but it’ll hurt.”

Donis was one of several Founders Ranch neighbors who complained to the commission about what they say is almost constant shooting at the shotgun range.

“Everybody and their brother goes down there and shoots,” said area resident Brian Kaeseman.

Another resident, Mary Ann Ende, read a March 15 letter that attorney Adrian Oglesby sent to the Single Action Shooting Society, which owns the ranch. The letter hints at the legal course a lawsuit might follow, should it come to that.

A permit issued to SASS in 2004 does not allow shotgun shooting, the attorney said: “The operation of a modern shotgun sports range was not contemplated or even foreseeable at the time … ”

Even a person “of the strongest constitution would find its impacts to be offensive, annoying, unpleasant, and damaging,” the letter continued. “Given this, it is shocking that the county has not stopped it already.”

After mentioning the county government’s “failure to properly permit and regulate activities at the Founders Ranch,” Oglesby said the shooting at the range “is unquestionably an illegal activity that perfectly fits the definitions of both a public and private nuisance.

“… We understand that the commission may soon reconsider the scope of the 2004 conditional use permit,” the attorney wrote. “At that time we hope that the commission will properly consider how the Shotgun Sports Club is a continuing nuisance that deprives my clients of their ability to enjoy their private-property rights. In the meantime, we demand that you cease and desist the operation (of the shotgun range).”

Steven Guetschow, the county’s Planning & Zoning chief, reported to the commission on several visits he made recently to the area around the ranch to monitor the shooting, which has been the target of nonstop complaints for months. He concluded that while the shooting was fairly constant and audible, it was generally not much louder than ordinary conversation.

The commissioners instructed Guetschow to look into purchasing a decibel-level reader.

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