CHOWCHILLA -- A proposal to build a private sportsmen's club and gun range outside the city is headed to the Madera County Board of Supervisors.
The Chowchilla Sportsmen's Club appealed to the supervisors, after the county Planning Commission declined a staff recommendation to approve the project.
It's a good project in the wrong place, said Ross Thornton, commission chairman.
"I just don't think the land is big enough," he said. "I'm thinking about if something gets away from somebody and you could have a tragic accident. I don't care how careful you are. It happens."
Club members insist that the range is just as safe as other ranges in the state.
"The other side is not talking with any type of authority," said Scott Thompson, project architect and club member. "The decision they made was purely based on opinions."
The range would be backstopped by a 20-foot wall of earth and overhead safety baffles, said David Bump, club president.
"This is not just something we're throwing together," he said. "We've done a lot of research."
The proposal is for a roughly 40-acre complex that would include an outdoor gun range, and shooting stalls that could accommodate long rifles, pistols, trap shooting and archery.
Commissioner Ray Krause called the project "wonderful" but declined to support it.
"The property is too small for that type of operation where farming, traffic and people traverse," he said. "We'd love to see that go in Madera somewhere."
Neighboring cattle rancher Ken Krause, and others in the area, submitted concerns to the commission.
"Anytime you're handling guns and have as many people as they're talking about, all calibers or pistols and shotguns, there's always a chance of an accident happening," he said.
Local residents' concerns about the project are unfounded, Bump said. "The statistics (for accidents) are very low on any shooting range. It's one the safest outdoor sports there are right now."
The facility would include 314 parking spots and be open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The project has been proposed for the north side of Avenue 26, approximately one mile west of Road 29.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to take up the issue within the next two months, although no date has been set.
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.