Local News

Drake Landing allowed to operate gun range

Posted August 28, 2014 11:41 p.m. EDT
Updated August 29, 2014 12:16 a.m. EDT

— Drake Landing will be allowed to operate a a gun range on its property, the Harnett County Board of Adjustment ruled late Thursday night.

The late night decision comes after two days of debate over whether to grant the northern Harnett County farm a conditional use permit to operate the shooting range.

In its decision, the board issued the following rules:

  • Shooting is only allowed Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • The range must be reviewed by certified range designers. No explosives are allowed.
  • No rifles over .22 caliber and no handguns larger than a .45 caliber are allowed.
  • The range must comply with county noise ordinances.

Each provision was voted separately and approved in either an unanimous or 4-1 vote.

The ruling was made after dozens of residents voiced opinions for and against the range before the five-member board Wednesday and Thursday.

Drake Landing is a family-owned farm in Fuquay-Varina that offers a number of outdoor activities, including hunting preserves, archery shoots, skeet and trap shoots as well as a rifle shooting range and pistol pits.

Neighbors say the shooting range brings noise and gunfire too close to their homes, and for years wanted the facility to adhere to county zoning laws.

"On the weekends, my alarm clock is gunfire," said Averell Blanks, who opposes the range, before the board Thursday. "When I bought there, I didn't have to listen to that, and today if I was looking for property I wouldn't buy there. I think it's a nuisance to the community."

The farm was exempt from local rules until a judge overturned its agritourism status in March.

Those rules, as outlined in the county’s Unified Development Ordinance, include:

  • Information regarding how the public will be protected from the highest caliber weapon used at the facility
  • Compliance with noise regulations
  • Exact distances between the target line and nearby homes

After the court ruling, Drake Landing owner William Dan Andrews said he made several changes, including closing the rifle range and not allowing rifles powerful than a .22 caliber.

"So I’m hoping that you all find a way to grant this petition and to be able to utilize his property, and to be able to make compromise to be able to satisfy his neighbors that he’s going to continue to work on the noise," said John Bryant, an attorney for the farm, before the board Thursday.

This week's hearing is the latest in the battle between the farm and its neighbors:

  • Drake Landing sparked controversy in 2010 when it planned a three-day semi-automatic weapons course over Memorial Day weekend. The event was eventually moved to another location, partly due to public outcry.
  • In 2012, residents complained to Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins about the range and wanted deputies to do more to stop stray bullets from hitting their homes.
  • County commissioners passed a resolution in January 2013 stating that “the operation of a firing range or pistol pit on a working farm is not a rural activity,” but just two days later, the county Board of Adjustments voted to allow Drake Landing to keep its agritourism classification.
  • A Superior Court judge ruled against the board in March, saying the gun range violated county zoning rules, but referred the matter back to the board, which did not appeal the judge’s decision.

The large turnout this week is the latest indication of how serious guns and gun rights issues are in the rural county, from residents packing a recent county commissioners meeting to fire back at a proposed gun ordinance to the sheriff advocating their use for home protection during a community meeting.