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County poised to kill Saluda shooting range

A crowd of more than 100 people gathered on the courthouse steps on Grove Street to protest a proposed shooting range on Macedonia Road in Saluda. A crowd of more than 100 people gathered on the courthouse steps on Grove Street to protest a proposed shooting range on Macedonia Road in Saluda.

The Saluda shooting range may not be dead yet but it's on life support.

Two Henderson County commissioners on Wednesday came out against siting an outdoor shooting range and law enforcement training center on 99 acres on Macedonia Road off U.S. 176 in rural Saluda and two others appeared to be leaning against.

"The consensus is we're going to work with Polk and Saluda to try to come up with an alternative site," Chair Michael Edney said. "We're going to honor the commitments we have as far as the due diligence. That doesn't mean we're not abandoning it. We're just leaving all our cards on the table for the time being."

A homeowner asked, Does this mean formal stance that there won't be a shotng range on that property?

"No," Edney said. "Our goal is to walk away but we're not saying we are today."

County Manager Steve Wyatt started the update on the shooting range by suggesting that Henderson and Polk counties could partner on building and possibly operating a shooting range and training facility. The Polk County Board of Commissioners sent a letter to Henderson County opposing the Macedonia Road site and suggesting that the two counties could cooperate on a solution.

“One of the things we’ve seen (from Polk County) is we will work with you to find a better site,” Wyatt said. “I’m more than happy to work with a small group of folks in finding a better site if there is one. Maybe there is.”
He said he had spoken with Polk County’s manager on the project.
“The offer has been made to work with us to find a mutually agreeable site and perhaps partner with operating it through a memorandum of understanding or some legal means,” he said.
Commissioners Charlie Messer and Bill Lapsley both said they could not support a shooting range at the Macedonia Road site. Commissioners Michael Edney and Tommy Thompson were leaning against the Saluda site but supported continuing due diligence evaluation of the site. Commissioner Grady Hawkins cautioned against immediately dropping the Macedonia Road site.
Messer and Thompson visited neighbors and walked the property last week.
“After going there, this parcel is not where any kind of training facility needs to be in my opinion,” Messer said, provoking robust applause from the crowd. “We’ve been all over the county, north, east, south and west. In my opinion we probably need to take an outdoor shooting range off the map because we’re not going to find any property I don’t think in Henderson County. I think that should be dropped from discussion.”
Lapsley said that while he appreciated Edney “trying to find middle ground” he had concluded that he could not support a rezoning or special-use permit clearing the way for a range on the Macedonia Road property.
“This board has looked at this for three years of my four year term and this is the fourth site that we’ve looked at,” Laplsey said. “The zoning ordinance has clearly set out what kind of uses are permitted by right. This would require a special-use permit and it’s not a permitted use” without one. “As I look at this specific site, the site is zoned R2R … From my perspective, if this board moves forward on this specific site, it would require this board to revise the zoning of that property to allow it to happen. To me to change the zoning … flies in the face of everything we have publicly said we would allow people to do. I’m not prepared to do that. If I would not support the rezoning of the property for an outdoor shooting range, to spend additional money from my perspective is a waste of the county tax dollars.”
In response, Commissioner Grady Hawkins said the county will never site an outdoor range if Lapsley opposes all special-use permits, which
“There really is nowhere in the county that by right or otherwise (permits) an outdoor shooting range. If that is the intent we would never have an outdoor shooting range anywhere in this county because it would require a rezoning," Hawkins said.
“I think to abandon that (site) at this point would mean if we’re unsuccessful in working with Polk County we’d have no other plan at all. I don’t think at this point you need to abandon the plan that you unanimously voted for two weeks ago.”
Edney and Thompson cautioned against pulling the plug immediately because of the county’s contracts to map the property, verify the title and complete environmental studies.
“We can’t just turn around to these people we’ve contracted with and tell them no, goodbye and walk way,” Thompson said. “We have a contractual agreement and that’s what we have to follow through. We’re all saying don’t do anything further by the same token we’ve got obligations and we need to fulfill them.”
Edney said it’s the county’s desire to find “an alternative site that would work better. We won’t take anything off the table but that’s the way we need to go this morning.”

Asked if the project now appeared dead, across-the-road homeowner Tom McHugh said, "If not today, soon."

"The zoning change came as a surprise to us yesterday," he said.

As Lapsley pointed out, the R2R zoning bars a shooting range, even as a special use granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Residents had previously thought the land was zoned R-3, a residential zone that allows a shooting range with a special-use permit.

To change the property to R-3 would be spot zoning, said James Hrynyshyn, vice chair of the Saluda Planning Board and a leader of the campaign to stop the project. The county would have to prove that the rezoning was in the best interest of the community. "There's no way this particular zone would work according to the state requirements," he said. That's why Lapsley's comments were important.

"That was a turning point for me, to have someone who understands that zoning-wise this is a no go," Hrynyshyn said.