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Planners push shooting range

County planners again have recommended approving plans for a private gun and archery range in an old phosphate pit near Hernando Elementary School, though they have requested more safety measures. The plans to build the shooting range on 21.5 acres off N Skeeter Terrace, south of County Road 486, have drawn opposition from residents and the Citrus County School Board; both are concerned about potential dangers to residents and students.

To ease those concerns, the staff recommended that the range have a steel and plywood covering over the pistol-shooting area that would prevent errant bullets from leaving the range.

On Nov. 1, the Planning Commission is expected to consider the application by Hernando resident Jacques Olivier, who wants to start a private gun club that would use the site. He thinks the 30-foot high sand walls around the phosphate pit provide an excellent location for shooting sports because it provides noise reduction and safety.

County planners agreed after consulting with the National Rifle Association, which oversees shooting competitions and provides guidance on range construction.

In a letter to the county, David A. Luke, the NRA's field representative in Port Richey, said the range would meet most NRA standards if several improvements, notably a cover over the pistol range, were made.

The range cover would extend far enough from the firing line to ensure that no stray bullets could leave the range. Bullets either would strike the roof of the cover, made of sandwiched layers of plywood and steel, or hit the sand hill behind the targets.

Such a cover would stop bullets fired from all conventional handgun cartridges, including the powerful .44-caliber Magnum, Luke wrote.

To prevent ricochets, no metal targets should be used, he added.

The skeet and trap ranges at which shooters use shotguns to burst clay targets thrown into the air, also have adequate protection, according to the NRA and the application.

The range of the small pellets used in shotguns for skeet and trap is about 200 yards, Luke wrote, and the NRA recommends a 300-yard "fall zone" in the direction of the shooting.

The proposed range would meet those standards, according to the application.

"We don't foresee any problems," said Brion Bromead, an association planner with the county. The direction of fire at the trap and skeet ranges would be away from Hernando Elementary School, which is about a half-mile from the pit, he said.

The School Board, however, responding to complaints by parents and neighbors who worry about the noise and the safety of their children, voted to oppose the project at its meeting Tuesday.

Among the other safety measures recommended by county staff are:

A six-foot-high fence around the entire property,

Limited hours of operation, ending at 30-minutes before sunset,

Limiting the facility to a private club, not open to the general public,

Appropriate warning signs to prevent people from wandering into the area.