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South Jordan • After battling two appeals from nearby homeowners, gun enthusiasts gained approval this week from the City Council to build a large indoor shooting range less than 150 feet from a neighborhood where close to three dozen children live and play.
A company named Gun Vault LLC intends to erect a 13,788-square foot facility that will accommodate 15 target lanes, classroom space, a retail shop and a large social area with shooting simulators.
After a closed session to consider imminent litigation, council members approved the new "recreational" business in a 4-1 vote.
Resident Kevin Funk had urged the council to "decide for the people." He and other homeowners raised concerns about the range's potential impacts noise, lead pollution from exploding bullets and declining property values.
"We've learned that the effects of lead are very damaging to children . . . that the cognitive impacts are irreversible," Funk said, clutching several studies on the issue.
Charles Beck, an orthopedic surgeon who practices at Jordan Valley Medical Center, is one of the Gun Vault's principals. On Tuesday he sought to allay their concerns.
"The people who are most at risk for lead in this entire situation are all those who are in the gun range, not those who are outside," Beck said. "Our filtered air will be put out into the environment with minute amounts of lead."
Bill Provencher, president of Carey's Small Arms Range Ventilation, defended the Gun Vault's ability to mitigate the adverse sound and air pollutants, both for users and neighbors. His company teamed with SSC Engineering, Inc. of Chesterfield, Mo., to provide data to the city.
"There are three standards we use," Provencher said, referring to engineering standards and regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Carey's has installed high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in more than 40 small-arms range ventilation systems, and Provencher said they effectively remove particles greater than .3 micrometers in size.
However, smaller lead particles would not be captured and they pose the greatest concern, said Brian Moench, a physician who heads up Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
"Research on lead's toxicity has revealed smaller and smaller exposures can do serious damage," Moench said, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers any measurable blood levels of lead to have irreversible, deleterious effects.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also said there is no safe level of lead exposure for children, Moench added. Children age six and younger are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning, he added, and life-long damage can include IQ loss, behavioral problems, and memory and attention disorders.
However, state regulators cleared the path for the shooting range to advance, saying it would operate well within set bounds for lead pollution.
The federal requirement for monitoring lead emissions applies to sources that involve one-half ton, or 1,000 pounds, per year, said Dave McNeill, planning branch manager for the Utah Division of Air Quality, in an email to Salt Lake health officials. Only primary lead smelters, metal foundries or a heavy concentration of airplanes fueled by leaded gasoline could emit that much lead, he said.
According to the SSC report, along with data compiled by the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, the gun range is predicted to emit .12 to 3 pounds of lead per year.
"We would not require lead monitoring at this source," wrote McNeill.
The SSC report estimated that about 6 million rounds of ammunition would be fired per year. But South Jordan resident Randy Hughes said he believes those numbers reflect 17 percent utilization of the new facility, which he expects would fall well below the desired break-even point.
"That's a big coup to have a gun range 150 feet away from a neighborhood," Hughes said."If you're the National Rifle Association, you're basically saying 'I can put this anywhere now.'"
Councilman Chuck Newton, one of the four who voted for the facility, said its opponents failed to meet the necessary burden of proof regarding sound and lead impacts. Attorney Jody Burnett, outside counsel for South Jordan, was directed to prepare a formal written decision to be presented at a later date.
Councilman Mark Seethaler, who cast the lone vote against the venture, said that "sometimes you just have to vote with your heart."
"Would this be acceptable to me, having built a $400,000 to $500,000 home and discovering that what used to be a carpet retailer 150 feet away . . . is now a gun range?" Seethaler said. "I think it's a game changer."
South Jordan to get indoor gun range
The 15-lane, two-story facility will be built on 1.6 acres at about 1200 W. South Jordan Parkway. Zoned as "community-commercial," the land borders a residential area, and the venture gained approval as a conditional "recreational" use, with the requirement that sounds and impact on the air be mitigated.
Source: South Jordan City