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Opponents of shotgun range win early round in courtroom

A group of neighbors who sued after Pasco County commissioners voted to allow a nearby shotgun range has won an early legal victory.

Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb has issued an order to show cause, meaning the county has to say why the neighbors' petition for relief should not be granted.

"The court finds that the petition demonstrates a preliminary basis for relief," Cobb's order reads.

Christie Zimmer, a real estate agent who has organized the Community of Ehren group, as the residents are called, was pleased at the judge's finding.

The county's deadline to respond is Nov. 28, and the residents group can reply to the county's response within 20 days. A hearing will then be scheduled.

The residents' suit, handled by Tampa lawyer Jose Gonzales, asks a judge to reverse the commissioners' approval of the range. It alleges that the commission acted without adequately exploring the potential hazards of a clay-pigeon shooting range, and without sufficiently considering how the facility might hurt the quality of life for nearby residents.

County attorney Karla Stetter said the county will submit a response saying commissioners did have sufficient evidence when they considered whether to approve the range.

"They had oodles of evidence," Stetter said. "They had expert testimony from both sides, they had testimony from residents. They looked at everything that was submitted to them that day."

At the Sept. 16 meeting at which the range was approved, more than 30 residents addressed the board, pleading with them not to allow the project. The residents feared noise from shotguns would be disturbing and that lead shot could be environmentally harmful.

Only Pat Mulieri, who represents residents in that area, voted against the range.

"Since they are now in litigation, I don't know if I'm supposed to talk to the press about it," she said. "What I think I can say is citizens have a right to take steps when they disagree with government. The appeals process is important."

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.