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Shooting range plans on hold after resident outcry

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By Ben Wiebesiek

FIRESTONE — The town board of trustees was spared a vote Feb. 13 on a controversial proposal for a shooting range north of town.
    Ron Abramson, who envisioned building the Second Amendment Firearms Experience on 900 acres near the St. Vrain River, withdrew his plans Feb. 13 for the facility to address concerns brought forth during the public hearing process.
    Residents of the unincorporated portions of Weld County and concerned Firestone residents packed town hall for previous planning commission meetings.
    After a first meeting by the planning commission on the site exceeded five hours of testimony, a second meeting was scheduled to accommodate the number of speakers on the issue.
    The concerns centered mainly on location: north of State Highway 66 and east of Weld County Road 17, a site that worried some of the neighboring property owners who feared the noise and potential danger would lower property values and disturb wildlife along the St. Vrain River Valley.
    Firestone Town Manager Wesley LaVanchy said the town processed the application request pursuant to the Firestone development regulations, starting with a neighborhood meeting and public hearings before the Firestone Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Board of Trustees.
    “The planning and zoning process was very transparent and allowed for people to participate and express their points of view on the various applications,” LaVanchy said. “The town fully expects to move forward with the annexation and approve a revised master plan, as well as review the resubmitted application from the applicant when that occurs.”
    Mayor Chad Auer said the town had met its obligation to facilitate a fair, transparent and legal process focused on facts.
    “I am extremely proud of how our town staff, planning commission members and citizens have engaged in this process,” Auer said. “Land-use issues often evoke strong emotions and, at times, garner heightened attention from media, enterprising attorneys and various activists alike.”
    The opposition to the shooting range coalesced into an organized group centered around a Facebook page, Save the Vrain.
    On the page, local residents have posted pictures of nesting bald eagles, and warnings that the shooting range would be two miles from homes in Mead and Platteville. The site stated 125 signatures had been collected for a petition to block the development of the shooting range.
    “Would you want the state’s largest gun range in your back yard?” the petition asks. “Firestone residents voted down the most recent tax increase for road maintenance yet Firestone’s town government keeps adding new roads. Lots of new roads. More annexations also means more emergency services. Do you want your fire department or police department six miles outside of your town center if you need them?”
    
Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.