Chilhowee shooting range stirs controversy at monthly County Commission workshop

Noise from a Blount County shooting range created much discussion during a two-hour commission work session Tuesday night.

The residents were complaining about the Chilhowee Sportsman’s Club on Old Railroad Bed Road, Maryville. While neighbors complained about noise from the facility, commissioners also learned about charity programs held at the facility.

Jody Brown, Meadow Road West, Greenback, said the gunfire at the club near his home is so intense, there was no way he could build on his five acres adjacent to the club property. “Basically the shooting range has ruined my property, I don’t know how I’m going to sell it,” he said. “We don’t necessarily want to shut this business down. We want them to quit shooting on Sundays and stop after 7 p.m.”

Trina Friend, Old Railroad Bed Road, Maryville, said she lives directly across from the range and said the shooting had become too much. “I’ve lived there 19 years. It’s not fair to us. I’m not saying close it down, but there’s got to be a way we can make it quieter for us,” she said. “This is our peaceful existence we bought that now we hate.”

Club owner Mickey Burns said he opened Chilhowee Sportsman’s Club legally and that buffer zones existed in the form ridges, mountains and trees.

While Brown said Burns had cut down trees that were part of a buffer, Burns said the trees were never part of a buffer. He then complained about how his neighbors had handled the situation.

“Nobody has come and complained to me at all. All of a sudden there’s a petition, then a Maryville radio station and a Maryville paper and the Channel Six come out. All this happened and not a soul has come and talked to me,” he said. “I’m already working on a plan.its disheartening that nobody comes and talks to me.”

Burns said he had 200 names on a petition of his own but he chose not to address it with the commissioners during the work session. “You’ve got more important things to do with your time than this nonsense,” he said.

Burns said he has spent a fortune and lot of work over three years to build the club. “We’ve raised a lot of money for the community. We raised over $125,000 for Cystic Fibrosis. Our hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and we go 12 to 6 p.m. on Sundays,” he said. “If they’re hearing that shooting after hours, it’s not us.”

Commissioner Mike Lewis made a motion that the item be put on the agenda for the May 15 commission meeting, Ron French seconded it and the item passed.

In giving a report on the budget, Finance Director Dave Bennett the value of the penny in the tax rate had risen about $11,000 per penny. Commissioner David Graham asked how the penny in the tax rate was worth so much more.

Bennett said the growth was based on commercial development that has driven up the value of the penny. “All growth is new houses new commercial development. That growth has been strong but has been subdued,” he said.

Bennett said the $2.23 tax rate was comprised of 95 cents for general purpose schools, 77 cents for the general fund and 51 cents for the debt service.

Bennett said the commission would be funding the building of a new school soon but that those expenses were built into the county’s current debt service.

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