Neighbors of a gun range that opened just outside of Pittsboro in late May have an unwavering message for the owner:
Take it somewhere else, or we’re going to court.
“We are not going away,” says Tony Gaeta. “The only thing he can do is shut it down.”
Gaeta is a corporate securities attorney with the Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton law firm in Raleigh, and an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Law.
He’s also an unhappy neighbor of Range 2A, which opened in late May on 71 acres owned by Mark Atkeson.
Gaeta has lived on his 30-acre property for eight years. Before that, he lived on a two-and-a-half-acre horse farm on the other side of Jordan Lake on Hwy. 751, near Apex Nurseries.
Then the Streets of Southpoint mall opened in South Durham. One of its access roads, Renaissance Parkway, is right off 751 near an I-40 ramp.
Needless to say, traffic on Gaeta’s stretch of 751 picked up quite a bit.
“You couldn’t sit in your backyard and have any peace and quiet,” he says. “So, for a couple of years, I looked for a farm deeper and further away.”
The dream property he found in the Dry Creek Valley subdivision was heavily wooded. He built his new horse farm on what was, for him, the most tranquil place on Earth.
“And then the range came, and destroyed all that with their gunfire,” he says.
Range 2A is a membership club with two instructors from D-Co, a shooting range in Southern Pines. D-Co offers tactical training for military and law enforcement personnel, as well as civilians.
Soon after it opened on Silk Hope Gum Springs Road, Range 2A drew noise-and-safety complaints from Siglinda Scarpa, owner of the Goathouse Refuge, a cat sanctuary that borders Atkeson’s property.
The range was shut down, at least temporarily, in early July. Results of a controlled shooting test by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department showed that decibel levels registered above 60, in violation of local ordinances.
Atkeson told WCHL in mid-August that he’s working on adding soundproofing features, in hopes of re-opening this fall.
But his problems don’t end there. Atkeson has also been cited for a storm water mitigation violation by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The border of Gaeta’s property is one side of the Goathouse Refuge, and Range 2A is on the other. Gaeta says he was present at the Goathouse for the controlled shooting test, and scoffs at the idea that it even represents the noise that came from Range 2A while it was open.
He describes it as high-powered rifles being shot at all times of the day and night, from eight shooting bays, seven days a week.
Gaeta recently co-authored a petition to Chatham County, asking for a permanent halt to the activities at Range 2A. The petition has more than 130 signatures from neighbors living a mile or less from the Range.
He told Chatham County Commissioners at a recent meeting that it’s not about guns. He’s a gun owner himself, and a veteran who served in Vietnam.
Gaeta says that he and other neighbors want to maintain the peaceful, safe environment they moved into, and not see their property values degraded by Range 2A.
Mediation between the opposing parties has been suggested by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department, and that could happen later this month.
Atkeson, the owner of Range 2A, told WCHL recently that he was all for it.
“I would happily go to mediation,” Atkeson said. “I would love to sit down and try to explain what it is I’m doing, and listen to their concerns and try to address them. Because I feel there’s a great deal of misinformation.”
Gaeta says he’s part of a group of neighbors willing to speak with Atkeson, but added that Atkeson probably won’t like what they’re going to say.
“Shut down the range,” says Gaeta. “This is the wrong place for it.”
He adds that even if Atkeson manages to bring the noise level below 60, and to resolve environmental issues with NCDENR, it’s not over. He and some neighbors have hired an attorney, and they’re ready to move forward.
“Our lawyer tells us we still have a case under the North Carolina Nuisance Law,” says Gaeta, “and we still intend to file a civil action against him to shut it down.”