Batavia town planners question shooting range developer

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FIRING PIN, LLCThe proposed firing range and other activities would be on a 22-acre site off of Harloff Road. The public hearing will be April 20.

BATAVIA — Batavia Town Planning Board members have an April 20 public hearing on a potential shooting range, drive-in theater and other activities. On Tuesday night, though, the board had its own question-and-answer session with Brandon Lewis, owner of The Firing Pin in Bergen, who would own the shooting range proposed for 3500 Harloff Rd.

“We have a lot we would like to do with the property. We see a ton of potential out there for a multitude of uses that, I think, not only benefit the town of Batavia, (but) Genesee County, the local region ...” Lewis told the board.

Lewis said he thought the shooting range is the part of the project most people would be familiar with.

“I feel we are definitely well-suited and well-qualified to run an outdoor facility such as this. We have the experience. We have the technical knowledge. We have the people in place with the proper training. That is, obviously, the prime objective out there.”

Lewis said he thinks the property is suited for a drive-in movie theater.

Another use would be for paintball, Lewis said.

PLANNING BOARD CHAIR Kathy Jasinski asked what activities they plan to start with at the site.

“Because of how the land is situated ... with board approval, the shooting range could start immediately in certain areas of the property,” Lewis said. “The RV (park), having someone come in and just park their RV would be very simple. Paintball would be simple to get going and we would probably try to get that going within this summer or relatively soon.”

Jasinski said the board has already had letters and questions from people who live in the area.

“Their big concern is the shooting range. What kind of events are you talking about? How long would you expect them to last? How often would you hold them?” she asked.

Lewis said the shooting range would be one aspect of the development. They plan to have shooting events or competitions, open houses and other things.

“We hope to operate as a regular gun club would — seven days a week,” he said.

PLANNING BOARD ALTERNATE Brooks Hawley asked what kinds of guns will be allowed at the shooting range.

“It would certainly be anything and everything that would be allowed, of course,” Lewis said. “One of our intentions is to have this utilized, not only by the local law enforcement agencies, but the facility we will have here, there’s nothing like this in the region, so we hope to draw from a wide area — law enforcement and just from the average citizen that’s interested in this type of activity — really all types of firearms.”

The shooting range would be a private club, he said.

“Our intent is, Monday through Friday, during the work week, it will only be open to members. To be a member of the club, you’d have to take a very extensive safety class. There will be staff there, of course, but it will not be at the same level as on the weekends,” he said. “On Saturdays and Sundays, we intend to operate much like The Firing Pin is. You can come down, just as a member of the public. You can go through much quicker, but still an extensive safety briefing, get you up to speed, you’re out on the range shooting. Under those circumstances, there would definitely be range safety officers present.”

Lewis was asked what the normal operating hours would be.

“Dusk to dawn is what most people target shoot,” he said. “We would certainly be open to starting later in the day ... if that’s a big concern of the neighbors, especially on the weekend. 7 a.m. in the summertime is a little early even if it is daylight out. If it’s 9 a.m., if it’s 10 a.m. start time, I think that’d be more than OK,” he said. “Depending on the interest in the activities we’re doing ... it would probably be dusk, especially in the winter months, it gets dark quite early.”

BOARD MEMBER JONATHAN LONG asked where the shooting range would be and what safeguards will be used.

Lewis said there are several pistol bays shown on a map of the site that, in addition to the way the land naturally sits, will use a hill. There was an artificial hill brought in when the site was Polar Wave Snow Tubing. The shooting range developers will enhance the hill with ballistic rubber, which is what The Firing Pin’s indoor range uses.

The ballistic rubber does several things, Lewis said.

“It’s going to make it much safer and increases our berm depth. It makes it a much more consistent berm that you can shoot into instead of, you might have a rock in a natural, just a soil, dirt berm,” he said. “It makes it much easier to clean, which is another huge concern of ours ... the remediation, keeping tabs on the land and managing the property, so we’re not hurting the environment in any way.”

Lewis said there won’t be just one range, but probably five ranges.

BOARD MEMBER PAUL MARCHESE said Lewis would have to have some defined tasks he would like the board to approve or disapprove.

“We can’t just give you a blanket ‘Do whatever you want’ out there. You’re going to have to come back, especially to the public hearing, with a definition of what you plan to do, where you plan to do it and how you plan to do it,” Marchese said. “I don’t know that I would even feel comfortable with just giving you a carte blanche approval on something that is not defined, especially for a special use permit. We have to have detailed definitions and times and dates ...”

Marchese said he thinks the proposal is an interesting concept.

“I’m a little concerned about the continual firearm fire. It’s pretty loud, especially if you’re taking out any of the bigger weapons,” he said. “Handgun fire is not as loud as your 50-caliber,” he said. “I think one of the questions was asked, what kind of weapons are you going to have? Are they going to be .22s, are they going to be .45s, 9 millimeters? Are you going to have the 50-caliber shootout day, kind of thing?”

Lewis said those are valid concerns.

“Going back to range design, even though it’s an outdoor range, there’s a lot that you can do to try to keep the sound on the property as much as you can — with different landscaping and physical sound barriers ...” he said. “As far as long-distance ranges where you’d be shooting the bigger firearms, there’s a very interesting technique ... of using large tires, suspending them from an A-frame. You’re almost making a suppressor outside out of tires. When you’re in the shooting position, you put your firearm through there, you shoot. It knocks out a lot of the noise. I’ve been quite impressed by that.”

Lewis said for using larger-caliber firearms that are louder, people would be shooting from inside a structure with soundproofing material that would soak up a lot of the sound.

“We fully understand that noise will be a concern and we want to do whatever we can to alleviate that,” he said.

THE PUBLIC HEARING on this proposal will be during the board’s 7 p.m. April 20 meeting, which will be done via Zoom.

“We’ll listen to the comments, positive or negative, and there won’t be any decision made at that meeting,” she said.

As far as the board decision, Jasinski told Lewis, “We’ll move along as fast as you get the information to us. Work with Dan Lang and get us the information they requested, and we’ll work as quickly as we can.”

Lang said letters and calls the town’s received from people will be addressed at the hearing also.

“I will present them at the public hearing because that’s going to be the appropriate spot to do that,” he said.

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