April 9, 2014 Updated: April 9, 2014 at 7:15 pm
The owners of Whistling Pines Gun Club can move forward with plans for a second indoor shooting range off Garden of the Gods Road.
The Colorado Springs City Council gave club owners Joyce and Bob Holmes the go-ahead at the tail end of a five-hour public hearing Tuesday night that involved two separate appeals of the planning commission's approval of the shooting range. The final decision came after midnight.
Joyce Holmes said she was happy and relieved the decision went their way. She expects to break ground on the 20,719-square foot building soon with a goal of opening in November.
Holmes said she was a bit disappointed in the five-hour discussion Tuesday because all of the issues had been covered and addressed in neighborhood meetings and in the January planning commission meeting.
"I felt like they had traipsed over well-trodden ground," she said.
She also took issue with how the Whistling Pines Gun Club members were portrayed.
"One person actually said, 'what if a club member sees a wild animal, will they shoot it?' I was thinking, 'Do they really believe that?'" she said.
Business owners in the area off Elkton Drive objected to the club because they did not want to hear the sound of gunfire all day and they were worried about airborne lead-poisoning. They appealed the planning commission's approval of the 17-lane indoor shooting range, which will be built on 2.5 acres and called Whistling Pines West, at 4750 Peace Palace Point. Most of the businesses in the area are industrial and are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.weekdays and are closed on weekends.
Residents in the nearby Pinecliff neighborhood also appealed the approval of the club. They said the planning commission ignored the city's hillside overlay ordinance, which says buildings can't be constructed in hillside overlay areas. Their homes are perched just above where the club will be built. Some residents said they can hear the sound of voices from below when they sit on their front porches.
They were concerned about home values plummeting due to "intolerable" gunshot noises six days a week. About 15 residents spoke against the club.
Council member Don Knight agreed that the gun club, which will be open daily until 8 p.m. would substantially hurt the nearby businesses and residences. He was in the minority, along with council members Helen Collins and Joel Miller, voting in favor of the appellants. Council member Merv Bennett was excused.
Knight said he had admiration for the gun club owners for making efforts to mitigate the sound by adding a four-inch thick concrete roof. But the owners could not promise that residents would never hear gunfire.
"The bottom line was that gun shots will still be heard," he said "It's not the right place."
He added that he believes residents made a case that their property values would go down.
But the majority of the council sided with the planning commission, which concluded that the club does comply with the city's hillside overlay criteria. The site of the club is flat and grading will not disturb any of the surrounding features, city planners said.
"I'm so happy," Holmes said.
In March, the city council denied the appeal of Majestic Mountain Range, a 21,000-square-foot indoor shooting range at 1170 Kelly Johnson Blvd. The council said that shooting range was properly zoned, met the city's comprehensive plan and would not negatively affect neighboring businesses despite concerns by area business owners.
Joyce and Bob Holmes opened Whistling Pines in 2006, just off Highway 94 at Marksheffel Road. Back then, Joyce, an Army veteran and accountant, was not immediately sold on the idea of sinking their savings into a gun club. She had visited an indoor shooting range in another state and found it distasteful. Whistling Pines, she said, would be clean, smell nice and be for members only to keep out the riff raff. Members pay an initiation fee of $350 and $32.50 a month.
The club has about 2,000 members and many live near the site of the second club, Holmes said.
"We heard from members that they would shoot more often if there was a club near them," Holmes said. "We've got over 900 members in that area already."
Holmes said she knows the topic of guns is emotional. But she said she has not received one complaint about the current club, she said.
"Our club members are the nicest people I've ever met," she said. "I'm hoping we won't have any complaints at the new club. I hope they will come around and be honest and say this has not been a problem."