Thursday, October 25, 2012

County Fair facility, with shooting range, gets approved by UG


It took about a 90-minute discussion, but the Unified Government's Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a new county fair facility on the northwest corner of Kansas Highway 7 and Polfer Road.

Much of the now-approved proposal was not touched on by commissioners or members of the public who packed the chamber room Thursday night.

Instead, most of the discussion centered around the shooting range that's a part of the facility.

During a nearly hour-long public forum, members of the Wyandotte County 4H shooting team, along with family members, spoke in favor of the shooting sports facility.

"We're not trying to pursue anyone to become gun-enthusiasts," said Lydia Patterson. "Shooting sports is a very stereotypical sport...we don't use guns in the manner (most think)."

Patterson, who's won awards while taking part in the sport, mentioned a stat about the sport of ping-pong causing more injuries each year than shooting sports.

For opponents of the shooting range, the proximity of the range to homes in the area concerned them.

Richard Wagner, who lives within range of the facility, said supporters would not be affected by the shooting since they don't live in the area.

"It's easy to support something if it doesn't affect you," Wagner said. "We are not against the 4-H'ers. We're against the public shooting range."

A petition against the proposal was signed by 80-90 percent of residents near the area, an attorney representing them said Thursday night.

"My clients don't oppose any part of this plan except the shooting range," said attorney Richard Roe. "They oppose it because of the constant noise."

The aforementioned petition was ruled invalid due to a signature error.

Along with the noise, another issue about the proposed shooting range was its potential impact on economic development. 

Dennis L. Harris, speaking on behalf of the county fair during the presentation, told commissioners that shooting ranges have not deterred economic development in other communities.

"There's been substantive development in other locations with shooting ranges," Harris said. "Growth has not been deterred. This act won't deter development."

Harris said the fair will make a strong effort to limit the noise and will construct the range in a manner where safety would not be an issue. 

UG Commissioner Mike Kane, who represents the Piper district, moved to approve the measure - mentioning it was a gut decision.