County Appeals Quail Ridge Ruling

Rockbridge County is appealing a judge’s ruling that overturned a zoning decision on commercial rifle and pistol shooting at the Quail Ridge Sporting Club’s outdoor range.

The county Board of Supervisors on Monday voted 3-1 to appeal Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Dryer’s summary judgment overturning a decision by the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals that commercial rifle and pistol shooting could not continue at Quail Ridge unless the owners obtained a special exception permit. Natural Bridge Supervisor David Hinty cast the dissenting vote that followed a closed session to discuss the judge’s ruling. Walkers Creek Supervisor Jay Lewis was absent.

During the citizens comments portion of Monday’s meeting, speakers on both sides of the issue addressed the supervisors.

“Occasional uses” that occurred at Quail Ridge during its previous ownership, said neighbor Martha Hust, were not grandfathered when a 2007 ordinance was enacted that required a special exception permit for commercial rifle and pistol shooting at the outdoor range. “I hope you will strongly consider appealing the judge’s ruling,” Hust told the supervisors.

Such an appeal, said Scott Guise, Quail Ridge owner, would be a “waste of taxpayers’ money. … I ask the Board to listen to the rule of law.”

The previous owners of the 75-acre property near Murat, Chris and Lori Salb, operated Quail Ridge Sporting Clays from 1992 to 2017. Scott and Crystal Guise purchased the property in 2017 and made substantial improvements to the outdoor range after receiving written assurances from the county that all previous activities were grandfathered and could continue.

After the Guises began operating the outdoor range, the county started getting complaints from neighbors about an increase in noise from pistol and rifle shots. The county notified the Guises that they were in violation of the ordinance, directing them to either stop the rifle and pistol shooting or apply for a permit.

The Guises contended that the definition of an outdoor shooting range, under the county’s ordinance, encompassed rifle and pistol shooting, and that this type of activity had been taking place under the previous ownership. County officials responded that they were unaware commercial rifle and pistol shooting had ever occurred on the property. They also pointed out that sporting clays was the only shooting activity that was listed on a business license application from the previous owners.

The BZA last Dec. 19 upheld the county zoning administrator’s ruling that pistol and rifle shooting was not grandfathered and required a special exception permit. Dryer overturned the BZA’s ruling Oct. 16 when he issued his summary judgment. Dryer found that the shooting activities in question could not be distinguished from those that are allowed in the county ordinance regulating outdoor ranges.

“The whole neighborhood is upset about this,” Jerry Deacon told the supervisors Monday. The noise is bothering everyone, he said, adding, “It seems like the county’s hands are tied.” Jimmy Knick described the location as “the worst place” for a shooting range.

Citing the clear language in the judge’s decision, John Metzger said, “There’s nothing here to dispute or appeal. … This was a slam dunk on the county. … What is there to appeal?”

Doug Wainwright said he’s been observing this situation over the past two-and-a-half years and found the defense of the county’s position to be a waste of taxpayers’ money. “There’s no dispute of the facts. Why appeal?” he asked.

“I can hear [the shooting] all day long. It’s very, very stressful,” said Robin Arrowmith, who lives a mile-and-a-half “as the crow flies” from the shooting range. She said the noise is not only stressful to the people who live nearby but to wildlife and domestic animals in the vicinity that are “very sensitive [to the sounds].”

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