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Colorado Springs City Council denies appeal to halt indoor shooting range

March 11, 2014 Updated: March 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm
photo - Image from Majestic Mountain Range Facebook page.
Image from Majestic Mountain Range Facebook page. 

An indoor shooting range will be built in north Colorado Springs amid office buildings, higher education campuses and retail stores despite heavy opposition from its neighbors.

The Colorado Springs City Council denied an appeal of the project Tuesday in a 7-2 vote and upheld the Planning Commission's approval of Majestic Mountain Range, a 21,000-square-foot indoor shooting range at 1170 Kelly Johnson Blvd. The council said the shooting range is properly zoned, meets the city's comprehensive plan and would not negatively affect neighboring businesses.

Majestic Mountain Range owner Jim Akers said the members-only shooting club will include 3,000 square feet of retail space and three classrooms. Akers already has signed up new members, he said.

"We are about education, empowerment and enlightenment," he said. "Our goal is to better the community."

The Planning Commission voted 6-1 in January to approve the shooting range, which will be built on 1.6 acres inside the Kelly Johnson Boulevard loop, near the intersection of Academy Boulevard and Interstate 25.

The shooting range building exterior will match that of its neighbors with brick, stucco, metal and stone veneer of brown and earth tones, said project architect Ryan Lloyd of Echo Architecture. The building will be 38 feet tall and have a balcony for club members to enjoy outside social events.

But it doesn't matter how pretty the outside looks, business neighbors said. "This project, folks, does not fit the culture," said Keith Ketelsen, neighboring building owner.

Joy Focht, owner of a nearby building, said she worries about Class A office space losing its value and building owners' ability to retain and attract new tenants.

"The idea of placing a shooting range in the heart of an office park greatly affects the value of the existing real estate,' she said.

Darwin Faaborg, a partner in a nearby office building, said he is gun advocate and member of the National Rifle Association. But the shooting range already has some of his tenants looking for new space, he said.

"The reason they are leaving is because the property manager said employees simply didn't want to be next door to a shooting range," Faaborg said about one of the tenants preparing to vacate.

According to the city's zoning code, the shooting range is a proper fit, said Colorado Springs senior planner Larry Larsen. The area is zoned Planned Industrial Park. Larsen said the commercial sports and recreational indoor shooting range is compatible with the surrounding area.

"The bottom line for me was that this is an indoor facility," Larsen said. "The noise and sound can be mitigated. That convinced me it would not impact this neighborhood."

Judy Lesser, academics dean of DeVry University which is in the Kelly Johnson loop, said about 45 percent of the school's 350 students are former active duty military. Some of them may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and she worries about the sound of gunfire so close.

Opponents of the shooting range brought a sound engineer to City Hall to demonstrate the booming sound of gunfire that could be heard if standing directly outside the shooting range building.

Councilman Merv Bennett was not convinced that gunfire would be heard from a few feet from the building or from inside neighboring buildings.

Aker's application describes a specially designed interior, including an insulated concrete framework and sound-isolated rooms for the shooting areas, that will keep the sound to below 60 decibels, which is the requirement by the city. The shooting areas will be wrapped in insulated steel plates to prevent stray bullets.

Supporters of the project said indoor shooting will be much safer than outdoor shooting.

"I am very excited about the shooting range," said Charlene Jones, an NRA-certified instructor and competitive shooter. She said she hopes to become an instructor at the new range.

Council members Jan Martin and Don Knight were in the minority on council and voted in favor of the appeal. Martin said a shooting range would be very popular in the city, but she was concerned about the location.

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