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Land use: No shooting ranges for Waccamaw Neck

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

An outdoor rifle range is not a suitable land use for the Waccamaw Neck, according to members of the Georgetown County Planning Commission.

The danger of stray bullets and noise from gunfire were two reasons commissioners asked County Planning Director Boyd Johnson to study ways to ban outdoor ranges from the Neck while leaving a place for them in rural parts of the county.

Johnson said an overlay zoning district was a possible solution during the commission’s meeting last week. The proposed rules would not prevent indoor gun ranges in some zoning classifications or infringe on anyone’s rights to buy or own firearms, he added.

The issue came before the commission after a zoning request was filed for an outdoor gun range between Hog Heaven restaurant and Alston Plantation off Highway 17.

Following the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s recommendation, Johnson proposed a half-mile buffer zone around outdoor rifle ranges in the county in order to contain stray bullets. That alone would rule out nearly every available parcel of open land on Waccamaw Neck, he said.

“Waccamaw Neck is one of the more dense areas of the county,” Johnson said. “One area that meets the separation requirement is inside Brookgreen Gardens toward the river. I don’t think that’s a likely spot.”

Commission Member Glenda Shoulette said she hears a lot of shooting noise from hunters and the half-mile buffer would not address the sound from a rifle range.

“I don’t think it’s possible to have a shooting range where there is no sound,” Johnson said.

“We’re urban,” Shoulette said. “I’m not finding a lot of support for a shooting range. How can you eliminate shooting ranges from Waccamaw Neck?”

Johnson said that an ordinance requiring much more than a half-mile buffer would eliminate potential sites in the western portion of the county.

“We would all like to be protected,” said Elizabeth Krauss, a newly appointed member of the commission.”Is a half-mile enough?”

Johnson said he could measure the property in Brookgreen Gardens and tailor an ordinance to exclude it and all smaller parcels. “We could write it,” Johnson said, “to keep it off the Neck.”

Commission Chairman Brian Henry felt that was getting overly restrictive. He said an ordinance should protect churches, schools and houses without being ridiculous.

Johnson suggested a non-shooting overlay zone as a solution. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to exclude Waccamaw Neck with traditional zoning because it crosses so many zoning classifications, he said.

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