Shawn White and Ted Eby said community is more important than a business venture when they withdrew a request to operate a shooting range.
Their decision not to go forward with the request during the Liberty County Consolidated Planning Commission’s July meeting drew applause from opponents of the proposed range, which would have been located on 5.16 acres Eby owns off Limerick Road near Seabrook Island Drive. Neighbors opposed the request, citing excessive noise, environmental impacts and possible injury.
In its application to the LCPC, White would have held classes at the range on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to teach people how to be responsible armed citizens. White told the LCPC there is a dirt mound backstop built to National Rifle Association standards for pistols and classes would not have included the use of high powered rifles.
But before Eby and White withdrew their request it drew fire from neighbors, many of whom said weapons were already being fired on the property.
Neighbor Kenneth Larson told the LCPC his weekends had been disrupted by shooting since January for hours at a time.
"You can’t relax. You can’t read. You can’t take a nap," Larson said. "I’ve tried earplugs, they don’t work. I honestly fear for my life…I’m trapped inside my house. I’m afraid to go near windows."
Maxie Jones IV, who lives further away from the property, works night shifts and sleeps during the day. He said he has been woken by gunfire often and cannot get back to sleep.
Veteran Casey Nash said the berm is not much taller than she is—5 feet 3 inches.
"My daughter would ride her bike down that trail or walk her dog down that trail or behind our house and could still see the rounds from the shells on the ground," Nash said, adding that she found rounds from an AR-15 rifle and .22 caliber casings. "I did not build my house six years ago for a gun range to be put by my house."
Nash said she also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to an explosion while serving in Iraq, and gunfire upsets her.
Tomika Byrd is the vice chairwoman of MJM Foundation, a youth mentoring and community outreach service organization which operates a safe haven for youth nearby. She turned in a petition with more than 100 signatures from residents opposed to the shooting range. She was concerned about lead contamination in the soil and ground water, bullets littering the ground, a decrease in property values, increased traffic, noise and safety.
Byrd told the LCPC her organization’s mission statement would have to be adjusted if the range were allowed. The berm faces towards where the youth play kickball, Byrd said, and stressed that a mistake could cost a life.
Sheri Purcell lives in the Woodland Lakes resort community, located a little distance behind Eby’s property.
"I have had tragedy in my life and I needed a place to recover and I’ve chosen Woodlands Lakes," Purcell said. "Noise affects me. I have PTSD, generalized anxiety…it brings back bad memories every time we hear this noise."
Purcell told a story of when her mother recently came to visit and decided to leave after hearing gunfire.
"My mother is 80 years old, she doesn’t have a lot of years left. I cherish my time with her…She said it’s too much going on in the United States with gunfire and killing," Purcell said, as she became emotional.
After listening to neighbors, White told LCPC members moving forward with the business wasn’t worth upsetting those who lived nearby.
"I never intended to come and disrupt anyone’s community," White said. "From a business stand point, I have not had a class out there in three months. I never had AR-15s in my classes…other people go out there and shoot besides me….I see the impact it’s had on people and honestly I don’t want to go forward with this…Community is more important than money."
He withdrew the request and the crowd applauded.
Eby also apologized to his neighbors and said he did not realize so many people had been negatively affected. He said he will no longer have shooting on the property and the crowd applauded again.