By Alex Bridges
Virginia Pistol LLC representatives seek to build a small pistol range training facility on a 4.9-acre lot at Woods Chapel and Moreland Gap roads, according to documents filed with the Shenandoah County Planning Commission. The business’ plans call for the construction of a 40-by-40 foot building on the vacant, wooded property zoned for agricultural use in the Ashby Magisterial District.
Virginia Pistol operates in the Linden Business Center, 5223 John Marshall Highway.
Jimmy Don Johnson and business owner Leslie Land-Fravel are listed on the application filed in late August. A message left at the business Friday afternoon was not immediately returned.
“It is a training facility but the purpose of the training facility is to teach students how to handle a firearm … they will be shooting at targets,” Joyce Fadeley, zoning subdivision administrator for the county, said Friday.
The site lies adjacent to residential property and neighbors alerted about the request have expressed concerns, according to Fadeley. The official noted she’s received calls from six or seven residents who said they feared the noise from the weapons firing even with the facility located within the wooded area and surrounded by buffers.
“I guess in some people’s opinion it’s secluded and in others’ it isn’t, and as I’ve been hearing from some of the citizens they don’t think it’s very secluded, but I guess the applicant felt it was pretty secluded,” Fadeley said.
The applicant indicated the shooting range, open only to students of a class taught by Virginia Pistol or local law enforcement officers, would operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The applicant indicated the facility would contain insulation to help buffer the noise from the firearms, according to Fadeley. But the applicant does not plan to immediately build the enclosure around the outdoor firing range, she added.
Plans call for the construction of berms at least 12 feet high and 12 feet wide at their base on three sides of the range, Fadeley explained. The firing targets in each of four lanes would be positioned with the tall berm as the backdrop, according to Fadeley.
The plan is to build a roof over the entire length of the firing range and enclose the area where the participants fire the weapons, Fadeley said. Walls would be constructed halfway up either side of the firing range with the other end left open, she explained.
“I don’t personally know how much noise there will be and I don’t know if the berms will provide enough of a buffer or not,” Fadeley said. “Some of the neighbors have called me and they’re concerned about the noise. They don’t think that the buffers are going to be enough to keep it quiet.”
The business sought to open the training center so its students could receive the time required for handling of firearms, Fadeley said. She also noted knowing of no other facility in the county connected to a firearms training class. The county has received several inquiries over the past five years about opening shooting ranges, but those requests usually went no further than discussions with the office, Fadeley said.
Shenandoah County did approve a permit to operate a preserve on which people hunt birds released on a several-hundred acre property, she said.
The county received an application about four years ago requesting to operate a military-style firearms training facility on Smith Creek Road, Fadeley said. She also noted that the applicant pulled the request after protest by residents.
“This in relation to that, though, in terms of the type of facility is way smaller,” Fadeley said.
Fadeley acknowledged the growing popularity of handguns and training courses.
“I think a lot of people around here would like the opportunity to have a place where they could go and be able to do that,” Fadeley said. “People have voiced that many times, but to have a place where they can go to prepare maybe for hunting and shoot their guns so that their sight is properly [adjusted] and all that for the hunting season because a lot of people don’t have an opportunity to do those kind of things.”