By Debbie Gregory
A group of anxious property owners attended the Macon County Planning Commission Meeting last Tuesday night, to protest the 157 acre gun range approved to be located on Dry Branch Road, in the southern part of the county, only to be told they were too late, because it was a “done deal.”
Middle Tennessee Sporting Association, of Gallatin, Tennessee, formerly the Gallatin Gun Club, bought 157.51 acres of land on Dry Branch Road from Loyd Edward Poppe, Jr., in April of this year.
According to Karen Kemp, who is the spokesperson for the group of surrounding land owners, she only learned about the gun range two weeks ago and purely by accident.
“I live on Taylor Branch Road, which is just over the hill from Dry Branch, and the gun range will be less that a mile from my home,” Karen told the Macon County Chronicle. “I only learned about the gun range two week ago and I immediately talked to County Mayor Steve Jones and Codes Enforcement Officer Scott Carver, who told me that it had already been approved and that there was a meeting on March 20 which was posted in the other local newspaper, in the public notices section. Scott said that no one was there to oppose the gun range, and I told him that was because no one knew about it.”
Mrs. Kemp says that she asked Mr. Carver if it would have mattered if people had been at the meeting and he said yes. “I contacted both of my county commissioners, and neither one of them knew about the gun range or the meeting addressing it,” continued Mrs. Kemp. “As far as I know, the notice in the other newspaper was the only notice given, and the gun range did not have to be approved by the county commissioners.”
According to Mrs. Kemp, the gun range owned by the Gallatin Gun Club, was leasing property owned by TVA close to the Gallatin Steam Plant. TVA cancelled their lease, and cited its growth, safety concerns, and the threat of terrorism as reasons. The Gallatin Gun Club then sought to buy land in Trousdale County off of Hwy. 231 North and also met opposition there from the public. However, the gun club discovered that the acreage was less than what they needed, so they didn’t buy the land.
“I’ve learned that the shooting range will include three ranges, shotgun, rifle, and pistol,” detailed Mrs. Kemp. “I have been told there are over 500 members and the range will be open 7 days a week, from 8 in the morning until 8 at night, Monday through Saturday. On Sunday it will be open from 12 o’clock until 8 o’clock at night. It will be located one half mile off of Dry Branch Road.”
Mrs. Kemp stated that there are many reason why they don’t need this gun range. “Gunfire will be present seven days a week and there’s no way of knowing how many people will be shooting at one time. The gun club members will be able to shoot and then go home, but we will be subjected to this 365 days a year.”
“There will be a terrible impact on the domestic animals and the wildlife,” said Mrs. Kemp. “No doubt, constant shooting will affect cattle, horses, goats, dogs, deer, and other wild animals.”
“The property and land values will drop, and resale will be difficult if not impossible,” shared Mrs. Kemp. “Who, in their right mind, would want to live near a gun range?”
“There is aways the chance of a stray bullet that could hit livestock, wild animals, pets and people, and environmentally, over time, lead can seep into and contaminate ground water and wells,” said Mrs. Kemp. “Airborne lead can poison wildlife and humans.”
Kemp also commented that traffic will increase on Dry Branch Road and Highway 10, which will increase the chance of accidents with people turning into Dry Branch, where there is no turning lane, and the visibility is poor. “This will all be long term problems for us, because Middle Tennessee Sporting Association won’t be leasing the land as they did in Gallatin, they own it.”
“We were told at the meeting that the gun range is a done deal and that’s there nothing we can do at this point,” said Mrs. Kemp. “I sincerely hope that’s not true. Many of the people in the Hillsdale and Meadorville areas have lived there their whole lives. We love where we live and we don’t want this gun range. I would hope that the welfare and the desires of the people of this county would be of more importance than the desires of the Middle Tennessee Sporting Association, of Gallatin.”
“You would never dream of a gun range coming close to your home,” Mrs. Kemp pointed out, “and not just finding out about it after it’s already been approved, but the shock of being told there’s nothing you can do.”
“Well, we don’t want to drop it,” Mrs. Kemp added, “and if there is something we can do, we want to find out what that is.”
Macon County Mayor Steve Jones said the Middle Tennessee Sporting Association, of Gallatin, Tenn., formerly the Gallatin Gun Club, bought the land on Dry Branch Road in April, after it went through the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals. “The shooting range went through the standard process,” said Mayor Jones. “The County Commissioners voted years ago to run advertisements in just one paper, but I feel like these issues should be run in both newspapers, on the radio, and the land needs to be posted for several days so people will have the chance to see it. I strongly believe this is what needs to be done. I think our system failed the folks in that area, and I am going to work to correct this, because there is definitely a problem.”
The group of property owners are seeking legal advice at this time.