Chowchilla gun range price tag will be cut

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comDecember 18, 2012 

— A newly formed gun club may have dodged a bullet in its quest to build what would be one of the valley's largest and most sophisticated shooting ranges outside Chowchilla.

A plan for a roughly 40-acre gun range and sportsmen's club will be adjusted to lower its final price tag, under a unanimous vote by the Madera County Board of Supervisors at a recent special meeting.

"We all found that the costs involved in the mitigation were prohibitive, basically a deal killer," said David Rogers, supervisor for District 2, which includes Chowchilla. "There's a much less expensive mitigation that can be done to accommodate this."

The Chowchilla Sportsmen's Club appealed to the board after the Planning Commission rejected the project in August, largely based on the concerns of nearby cattle ranchers.

The board has signaled some support for the idea.

"We're not dream killers," Rogers said. "We're there to help them achieve their dreams within the law. But it's not a done deal."

The board directed planning staff to reduce the size of required earthen berms that would muffle noise from the range, as well as remove a requirement to pave a nearby road.

The board likely will vote in January on whether to approve the project after club representatives work with planning officials on the details.

"I think we're on the right track," said David Bump, club president and owner of Schoettler Tire in Chowchilla. "It doesn't feel like a win yet. We're in a negotiation process."

After the changes are made, the project would cost about $1.2 million, down from roughly $3 million, Bump said.

The club, which has the support of local law enforcement and Chowchilla city officials, has raised about $78,000 for the project from its membership and other donations.

"My vision is a two-year project," Bump said. "We have to have volunteers and money. That's what we need. And we have a lot of community support, and people have told us they'll bring their equipment out and help us build it."

The proposal is for a private club on the north side of Avenue 26, about one mile west of the Road 29.

The facility would feature an outdoor gun range, assembly hall, picnic area and shooting stalls for long rifles, pistols, trap shooting and archery.

The club would operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., as well as hold shooting competitions and events in the assembly hall.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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