Maryland residents who live and work around Sugarloaf Mountain in western Maryland are speaking out against a proposed gun range about 10 miles south of Frederick.
The Frederick News-Post reports that residents packed a 200-person hearing room Thursday night for a hearing before the Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals. Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday evening.
The gun range is proposed for an area that is zoned for resource conservation. The range could be permitted, if it's given a special exemption.
Opponents say the range would spoil the peacefulness of the area and could hurt local businesses.
"This tranquility, this natural setting, this quietness is my bread and butter,'' said Jill Reeves, who runs a yoga studio near the range site.
Peter Fitzpatrick, an attorney defending the proposal by Old Line Arsenal LLC, acknowledged the community opposition. But he said the applicants have a right to use their property.
"This is not a popularity contest,'' Fitzpatrick said. "The applicant is entitled to use their property in a way that is legal.''
Plans call for two outdoor shooting ranges, an indoor shooting range and a three-story wooden shooting tower.
Scott Hansen, Old Line's acoustic engineer, said tests completed earlier this month found that shots fired inside the site produced sound registering at 56 to 59 decibels at the border of the property. Hansen's review measured the report of one firearm at a time, and he acknowledged that the cumulative effect of multiple shooters might push the noise up to a state-set threshold of 65 decibels. However, sound-dampening technologies planned for the range could soften noise levels by up to 10 or 15 decibels, Hansen said.
But the expert for Sugarloaf Alliance, an organization of residents opposed to the range, said the noise would top 75 decibels within half a mile of the facility and 70 decibels within a mile.
Hansen, who took his measurements when the trees were thick with leaves, said noise levels might actually be lower when the branches are bare. Clem Myer, an engineer working with the alliance, said the tests should have been done in winter and with higher-caliber firearms that would produce a louder gunshot. Under questioning, Myer acknowledged that he is not an acoustics expert, but said an independent analysis of the noise levels at the site is needed.