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Embattled Gun Range Warned to Comply with Environmental Laws

By Danny Hooley Posted August 29, 2014 at 3:29 pm

An embattled outdoor shooting range in Chatham County is facing more than just the threat of a lawsuit from neighbors who call it a “nuisance.”

The owner of Range 2A, located just outside of Pittsboro, has also been warned by Chatham County officials of possible civil penalties and criminal charges for failing to comply with a local soil ordinance.

Mark Atkeson, the owner of Range 2A on Silk Hope Gum Springs Road, told WCHL on Friday that he expects to meet the latest deadline of Sept. 19 to comply with the ordinance.

It’s the second deadline extension he’s been granted since his original warning from the county in late June to take corrective action for unapproved soil disturbance on his 71-acre property.

On June 17, Atkeson’s property was inspected by the Land & Water Resources Division of the Chatham County Environmental Quality Department.

Two days later, the division mailed a notice to Atkeson that he was in violation of The Chatham County Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Ordinance.

Atkeson had failed to submit an approved plan for soil erosion and sedimentation, or to obtain a permit for land-disturbing activity.

The inspection report showed that several acres of land disturbance had occurred for the construction of an access road with two culverts dug underneath it, as well as eight shooting bays with earthen berms, and “additional areas in support of the gun range project.”

Atkeson was advised to cease all land-disturbing activity.

In the June 19 letter from Lead Erosion & Sedimentation Control Officer Rachael Thorn, he was told to submit three copies of an erosion and sediment control plan, a Land-Disturbing Permit Application & Financial Responsibility/ Ownership Form, and appropriate fees to Thorn’s office.

Atkeson was warned that failure to do so within 30 days of receipt of the notice could result in a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per day of the violation, possibly to be assessed from the day it occurred.

On July 30, Thorn sent Atkeson a letter reminding him that he had failed to respond to the first warning, and directing him to do so immediately.

In addition to a reminder about civil penalties, Atkeson was warned that he could face criminal charges for knowingly and willfully violating the ordinance.

You can read both letters here.

He was told to comply by no later than August 22. According to another warning letter sent to Atkeson on August 26, he did not comply by that date.

This time, Thorn wrote to Atkeson that he must submit his plans, complete the forms and pay the fees by no later than Sept. 19.

WCHL spoke to Atkeson on August 29. He said that he’s been in touch with Thorn to explain that he’d been unable to schedule work from surveyors and engineers in time to meet the earlier deadlines.

He said that the deadline extensions from Thorn’s office were granted on that basis.

Requests from WCHL for an interview with Thorn were not answered, but her office did supply WCHL with copies of the letters sent to Atkeson.

Atkeson told WCHL that the surveying and engineering work was being “wrapped up,” and he’s confident about meeting the Sept. 19 deadline.

“If that’s the one they gave me,” said Atkeson, “then we should be able to hit that.”

Range 2A, a membership-based shooting range with instructors that have Special-Ops backgrounds, opened in late May.

Siglinda Scarpa, owner of the neighboring Goathouse Refuge, immediately called for Range 2A to be shut down, claiming that it was dangerous to the neighborhood, and to the 200-plus cats living on her animal sanctuary, which offers pet adoptions.

The range was temporarily closed in early July after a noise test conducted by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office determined that gunfire from a single weapon on Range 2A registered above allowable decibel levels measured from Scarpa’s property. Atkeson told WCHL that he is working on installing more soundproofing features –berms — so that he can re-open this fall.

A group of neighbors recently presented a petition with more than 130 names to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners to shut down the range. A spokesman for the group told WCHL that an attorney has been retained to possibly sue Atkeson for creating a “nuisance.’

In his comments to WCHL on Friday, Atkeson called the continuing controversy about his shooting range “tiresome” and added that he is “tired of being the bad guy.”

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