Proposed Frederick gun range sparks safety, noise concerns

A sign near Thurston Road in Frederick, Maryland protesting a proposed firing range. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

FREDERICK, Md. — Those driving in the area of Thurston Road in Frederick, Maryland can’t miss the many signs put up in protest of a proposed firing range in a valley that backs up to Sugarloaf Mountain.

Sitting underneath the shade of a tree, watching the occasional car go by, sits Vicki Bazan. The only sounds are birds chirping and the occasional neighing of a horse.

“It’s a quiet serene neighborhood,” said the stable owner, who has lived down the road from the site for 34 years. She’s worried that a firing range could change that.

“We have nothing against guns,” Bazan said. “It’s just guns and horses don’t mix.”

She says many horse trails go by the proposed site of the Old Line Arsenal gun range and she worries the shots will spook the animals.

“Spooked horses are dangerous, they’re dangerous to the rider on top, they’re dangerous to property and themselves.”

“We want to operate a facility that is safe and fun for people who are sporting enthusiasts,” said Peter Fitzpatrick, attorney for Old Line Arsenal. He says their goal is to “preserve the beauty of the area and is not going to disturb the neighbors.”

Fitzpatrick says the range will be placed in a valley that in tests showed a lower decibel level than surrounding traffic on the exterior of the property. Additionally, berms and overhead baffles will be installed to help block the sound, says Fitzpatrick.

This locale is best suited for the project because according to Fitzpatrick, “there aren’t a whole lot of properties available that have the kind of acreage that that has, as well as the topography that’s in place.”

But Bazan isn’t convinced.

“They’re trying to convince us that they’re gonna muffle the bullets,” she said. “I don’t know how you do that.”

Frederick County has to approve a special variance that would allow the range to be opened.

Another concern is traffic as the site plan includes spaces for 144 cars. Fitzpatrick says that won’t be the number of people they serve.

“The maximum capacity of the facility wouldn’t allow that many people to be there at one time.”

But Fitzpatrick does want to address the concerns of the neighbors and, when it comes to the variance they need to operate, says, “we feel that at the final hearing, that the law and the regulations that apply to this will be borne out that we’ll be able to get it,” he said.

Bazan worries that that she and other stable owners will be put out of business by the range.

“People won’t come to ride where guns fire,” she said.

At a meeting Thursday night, upset residents along with others concerned for the area packed a county building for a public hearing. Because of the number of people that showed up, the meeting was postponed until Aug. 28, when a bigger venue is available.

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