Commissioners shoot down approval of firearm training facility
County commissioners denied and delayed two contentious planning and zoning applications in a public meeting Thursday, Feb. 28.
The first was a special use permit for a firearm training facility south of Eisenhower Road on County Road 5.
The second was the final plat for a 70-acre, subdivided lot near the intersection of 256th Street and Dehoff Drive west of Tonganoxie.
Larry Noell was the applicant for the shooting range, which he intended to open commercially for a Kansas Concealed-Carry Handgun certification course.
Although Noell has taught classes off-site since July 2006 and would agree to an inspection by a certified advisor with the National Rifle Association, commissioners unanimously denied the SUP based upon the character of the surrounding neighborhood, safety, noise level and public health.
Noell's 6.1-acre property is zoned rural-residential, and, according to his closest neighbor, Jim Campbell, there are 12 occupied homes within a 1,000-foot radius.
The land is designed for low-density, residential housing under the county's current comprehensive land use plan, planning and zoning director Chris Dunn said Thursday.
A valid protest petition from surrounding homeowners was filed opposing the training facility, and the Leavenworth County Planning Commission also recommended denial of the SUP, 7-2.
Campbell, who lives 240 feet away from Noell's property, said he is former NRA member and gun owner himself, but he still objected to the gun range.
Campbell said safety was of utmost concern, with a bullet from a 9 mm pistol having a range of over a mile. He also said that a commercial gun range would sound like a cannon go off in his living room, and he added that the range might lead to a significant reduction in the value of his property.
In his defense, Noell noted the range would only be open commercially on Saturdays and that a 15-foot-tall dirt backstop was built 30 feet away to prevent any stray rounds.
"If bullets are kept in the range, they're going to hit soil," Noell said. " : I run a safe range. As far as bullets leaving the property, that's not how I teach."
Noell said he has been trained to prevent any student from pointing a loaded weapon anywhere above the horizon or anywhere but straight ahead.
He added that the Campbell property was not in danger as it is more than 90 degrees in the opposite direction of the shooting range.
Ultimately, though, all three commissioners voted against the SUP.
"It really bothers me that (the range) is so close to the city," Commissioner J.C. Tellefson said.
Tellefson noted a decision in January 2007 to deny commercial use for a shooting range owned by Joseph and Cheryl Nave in a more rural location in the county as precedence for the board's decision.
A final plat for a proposed three-lot subdivision owned by Coy Drinnon in southwestern Leavenworth County was tabled in a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Dean Oroke opposed.
Dunn and Tellefson said that, under the proposed lot-split, the property would not meet the required 300-foot frontage requirement to make it a buildable lot unless modifications, like creating a crushed rock cul-de-sac, for instance, were created at the owner's expense.
County engineer Mike Spickelmier said, however, that the public works department would not support a gravel cul-de-sac because of economic and maintenance issues for the county.
Drinnon said he had a buyer for 25 acres of his property lined up and needed to sell the property in order to pay bills or would risk losing his home.
Tellefson said, "I'm personally supportive of creating this," but recommended tabling the issue. He said the property might eventually be buildable if split into two lots instead of three or if Drinnon acquired a small piece of frontage from a neighboring property and then petitioned the county board of zoning appeals for a variance.
Oroke, who voted against tabling the issue, noted that the county planning commission recommended approval of the plat, 9-0.
However, planning commission president Steven Rosenthal, who was present at Thursday's hearing, said, "Looking at this (plat) now, I don't know how we did approve this."
"It's an ugly-looking plat," he said.
In other business Thursday, the board:
¢ Heard a report from solid waste director Jason Auvil on a fire at the County Transfer Station Tuesday morning, Feb. 26.
According to Auvil, transfer station employees noticed smoke coming from a trailer where three commercial loads of waste had just been dumped. He immediately called 9-1-1, and employees began dousing the contents of the trailer with water.
When the Lansing Fire Department arrived, firefighters used an additional 500 gallons of water to put out the fire, and transfer station staff then used a backhoe to readjust trash in the several-ton trailer.
Auvil reported Thursday that, other than discoloration of the trailer, no structural or physical damage was sustained.
Although he said the ignition source of the fire was unknown, he recommended using a separate area at the transfer station for disposing of burn barrels in the future.
Commissioners also authorized an amendment to the solid waste department's permit with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, allowing for composting of grass clippings, leaves and wood chips and discussed reviving a solid waste committee to update a solid waste plan for the county.
¢ Authorized the chairman to sign a one-year lease extension for the emergency medical services station on Eisenhower Road in Leavenworth with landlord Mather Enterprises at $355 per month beginning March 1.
¢ Considered a board order transferring $55,000 out of the register of deeds technology fund to the county equipment reserve fund, but no action was taken.
¢ Heard Commissioner Clyde Graeber report back from a conversation with Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal Tuesday, Feb. 26. Graeber said Vestal was interested in setting up a joint meeting for the end of March or beginning of April to discuss the possibility of a contribution from the city for the County Road 1 improvement project.
¢ Reviewed a continuity of operations plan with emergency management director Chuck Magaha.
The plan spells out how county departments react or relocate in the event of a major catastrophe.
¢ Met in executive session for 15 minutes with public works director Mike Spickelmier and County Counselor David Van Parys to discuss the acquisition of real property.
¢ Met in executive session for 10 minutes to discuss land acquisition.
¢ Met in executive session for 15 minutes to discuss non-elected personnel.