A proposed shooting range in northern Leavenworth County that had already been denied by the county's planning commission earlier this month was reviewed again Thursday, this time by the Leavenworth County Commission.
Following the 6-0 vote by the Leavenworth County Planning Commission to deny a permit submitted by Todd Bledsoe to allow a shooting range associated with his business, Night Ops LLC, on his property near Santa Fe Trail Drive and 179th Street, about 4-1/2 miles northwest of the city of Leavenworth, a protest petition was submitted to bring the matter before the county commission.
Bledsoe said he would primarily be using the 45-by-40-foot range in the middle of his 8-acre property to teach concealed-carry certification classes. A 20-foot backstop provided mostly by the natural topography and 9-foot berms on either side of the range would keep bullets in and funnel noise up as much as possible for safety and to avoid the sound affecting nearby properties. Bledsoe also said that in planning the range and in teaching his classes, those concerns were foremost to him.
“My philosophy is, if it's shot there, it stays there,” he said. “I don't want errant rounds.”
Bledsoe also said that the facility was to be open by appointment or classes only.
“This is not a place where they show up, hang out, shoot a gun, carry on or anything like that,” he said. “I don't want that.”
The nearest residence to Bledsoe's proposed range is about 680 feet away. Matt Howard, who lives on that property with his family, said he was opposed to the proposed range.
“I put a lot of hard work into that,” he said of his home. “Just consider everybody around, they worked for that property. There's a lot of old families that have inherited that property, worked hard for it. They don't deserve this.”
Other speakers who opposed the plan cited the potential environmental impact from lead contamination, the way the range could affect the historical value of that area, which was once part of the Cody family farm and the potential noise.
“We believe our area has reached a saturation point for gunfire,” said Trish Wiles, a nearby property owner, citing a number of other gun ranges on Fort Leavenworth and the U.S. Penitentiary.
Wiles also expressed concerns over the effect on property values should the range move forward.
“Who would want to buy a home or land that's next to a gun range?”she asked.
Bledsoe said to some extent, he was flexible, though he said time on the range would be necessary as part of the concealed carry licensure and that no other ranges in the county are easily available.
Page 2 of 2 - County Counselor David Van Parys said because of the protest petition that brought the issue before them following the earlier denial, the county commissioners would need to vote unanimously to override the planning commission's decision. Commissioner Dennis Bixby said Bledsoe did have distinguished credentials for the work he was proposing.
“I just don't feel this is a good site, a good fit,” he said, considering the rural residential nature of the area.
Commissioner Clyde Graeber also said he felt he could not vote for the permit.
“I do not believe it's sufficient for reasonable separation between the range and the adjacent property owners,” he said, also mentioning that he felt the size of the backstop was insufficient and that the range would be out of step of the use of the surrounding properties.
The commission voted to deny the permit unanimously.