Guns, beer generate big debate
By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
Discussion of guns and beer highlighted the July quarterly meeting of the Cannon County Board of Commissioners and attracted a large gallery in the courtroom of the Cannon County Courthouse.
Two-thirds of the large crowd was in attendance to voice their displeasure with noise created by a shooting range in the Pleasant Ridge Community. Most of the remaining crowd was there to oppose beer sales at Short Mountain Market due to its close proximity to an area church.
An otherwise light agenda generated lengthy debate on the issues that resulted in numerous citizens taking their turn being heard.
More than 40 minutes were spent discussing the OK Corral Shooting Range on the property located at 3175 Pleasant Ridge Road and owned by Barbara and Grady Parker.
Citizens say the noise generated from weapons throughout the day has become unbearable and is affecting their way of life. The OK Corral Shooting Range is a business and owner Grady Parker had already changed hours of operation prior to discussion of the business being brought up at the June Commissioners’ meeting.
Parker said the shooting range is open Monday-through-Saturday 9 a.m.-to-6 p.m. It is open Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
After asking the Commissioners a series of questions that pointed out no Cannon County businesses are regulated in terms of hours of operation nor are there noise ordinances, Barbara Parker informed the group that any such discussion regarding the shooting range would not be healthy.
“I contend that further discussion on this topic in this type of setting would be solely for the purpose of slander and soliciting personal prejudice against my family, and an act of discrimination against the OK Corral Shooting range since it is not the only business operating outside the city limits and is not the only facility of its time in this county,” Barbara Parker said.
Several residents of the community took turns voicing their displeasure. Cynthia Lance Jones said the noise caused her to take medication.
“I’m not against the gun range but the one in our neighborhood has just become too much,” Jones said. “We have elderly people there and it is scary for them. It is scary for me when I mow the grass. When you are on your deck and hear that over and over you just have to go inside. It is nerve-wracking (Son) Josh (Lance) was in an accident (June 30, 2012). When I brought him home from Vanderbilt I was a wreck. He was very sick. Hearing that over and over and over, I had to get medication because I couldn’t take it.”
Gene Mason said the gun range has become an intrusion into people’s lifestyle.
“I’m here to let Barbara and Grady know their gun range has created havoc in our community,” Mason said. “I am asking them to stop this problem. Take this intrusion out of live and let’s all live together. I ask that the Commissioners do everything possible to restore peace and tranquility back into our lives because it is miserable seven days a week.”
Josh Lance told Commissioners the gun range has changed his lifestyle.
“Why would anyone like a firing range in their front yard or their back yard?,” Lance asked. “If (the Parkers) would like it in their front yard they could have built on the opposite side of the hollow. It is awful. It is a nuisance. I can’t understand why on Sunday, the Lord ’s Day, we have a gun range going off. I understand you have to make a living but it is too much of an intrusion in my lifestyle.”
Some neighbors even alleged bullets have come into their yard or inside a vehicle. Some said noise from the shooting range can be heard as far as Auburntown. Barbara Parker denied those allegations.
“No bullets are shot toward the road, no bullets are shot toward a person’s house,” she said. “They are shot toward the back of the property which goes on for acres. As far as the sound traveling, I would disagree with that. I live closer than several of these people to the gun range and that sound is not what you are hearing. I do have five neighbors, and one of them is Frank Mason, who shoots in their yard quite frequently. Those are not regulated. I have no idea which way those bullets are going and they can shoot all hours. We have business hours, they don’t.”
Citizens say Mrs. Eleanor Bell no longer wants to come outside of her house because of the noise and fear created by flying bullets.
Commissioner Kevin George said it is a delicate situation.
“There is no way (the Parkers) can run their business without affecting (neighbors’) lives,” George said. “We have to figure out a way where you can run your business and they still have peace. You already have done some things.”
Citizen Faye Knox told the Commissioners it is their responsibility to come to a working reasonable solution.
“Everybody else has their rights too,” Knox said. “Nobody wants government interference. Unfortunately, government is for the people and should work for the people. That’s what this body needs to start looking at, the ways that the people that are being affected by this noise can have some peace and quiet in their homes, and, at the same time Barbara and Grady can run their shooting range. There has to be some way this body can come together and figure out how to work for everyone.”
Chairman Mark Barker reminded the audience that Cannon County does not have noise ordinances nor does it regulate business hours.
Commissioner Jim Bush warned that government interference can be a bad thing.
“Once you start impeding one another’s right, once you open that door, it never closes,” Bush said. “I wish you all could get together and work this out because the law is a double-edged sword.”
Commissioner Jim Jones said he had recently visited the range and reported it was very well laid out and well run.
After more than 40 minutes of discussion no resolution was reached on the matter. Barker said the Commission would continue looking into what other rural counties do regarding ordinances on such businesses.
Short Mountain Market owner Kevin Harvey addressed the Board regarding beer sales at his place of business. Short Mountain Market is located within 1,000 feet of the Short Mountain Church of God and also within 600 feet of a local cemetery. Harvey asked the Commissioners to consider changing the ordinance on footing so he could sale beer.
He has previously been turned down by the Commissioners and his request failed by a 4-2 vote Saturday.
Harvey pointed out property taxes were recently raised but that money has not generated additional sheriff’s deputies.
“I doubt tax increases are going to do that,” Harvey said. “My business is doing about three times more than when I started. I believe I can do three times more with the sale of beer.”
Short Mountain Church of God pastor Charles Stanton said the store was too close to the church and urged Commissioners not to allow beer sales.
“We have no ill feelings toward Mr. Harvey, no ill will,” Stanton said. “The Board has upheld the law to this point. We came today to support the Commission and that you continue to do what’s right for the state and the people in the community. We want Mr. Harvey to prosper, but I don’t think it would be good for us to have a store selling beer that close to a church and cemetery.”
Citizen Priscilla Mingle spoke in favor of beer sales, saying Cannon County needs to keep its tax dollars home.
“I live within six miles of that store,” Mingle said. “I personally do not buy beer. I don’t drink it, but I know people that do. If we are hurting for tax money why should our tax dollars go to Rutherford, DeKalb and all of these surrounding counties? We should be thinking about our taxes and our needs.”
Barker said most of the beer consumed in Cannon County is purchased here.
“Not in my community,” Harvey said.
After much discussion, Commissioner Russell Reed made a motion to lessen the footage from 1,000 feet to 900. Jimmy Mingle seconded the motion. It failed 4-2 with Barker, Jones, Bush and George voting against.
Under other business, Bush indicated disdain regarding a groundbreaking for the new ambulance center. He felt more discussion on the location would take place at the July quarterly meeting.
“We approved the low bid at the June meeting,” Bush said. “We took the low bid but we were going to have more discussion on the location but we had a groundbreaking last week. How can you have a groundbreaking until you have said, ‘Yes, we are going to build this.”
Barker and George pointed out the approval of the low bid, coupled with the land purchase and vote for the grant approval indicated where the building would be located.
“We had discussion,” Barker said. “We bought the property to build the ambulance center.”
County Executive Mike Gannon provided documentation from minutes of previous meetings showing where the grant and land purchase was approved unanimously.
The next regular meeting of the Cannon County Commission will be at the County Courthouse Aug. 12 at 5 p.m.