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Hoschton residents load up against firing range

POSTED: February 6, 2009 12:33 a.m.

HOSCHTON — Noise from a firing range in Braselton has upset several local residents, and they voiced their concerns this week at a Hoschton City Council meeting.

The range is located behind the Braselton Water Reclamation Facility off Josh Pirkle Road.

Some residents contend they have been in contact with Braselton officials about the problem since last January, but nothing has been done.

"We’ve been complaining over this for much longer than just a few months, and it’s documented," Erma Denney told council members Monday.

Denney lives in Deer Creek Farms and said people living in her neighborhood, along with The Village at Hoschton and those off Beaver Dam Drive, are affected by the noise.

Dayne Shannon, who has lived off Beaver Dam Drive for 22 years, said he has complained several times about the gun blasts.

"It sounds like fireworks going off," he said. "You can’t go outside and sit on your deck or anything. It just goes on all day long."

Michael Gibson, who lives in Deer Creek Farms, said he was worried about his property value decreasing because of the noise associated with the range.

"I’d just like to remind you it’s the value of my property that is dropping to zero," he told the council.

Denney added: "Deer Creek has been in existence for more than two decades. This range was built far after an established neighborhood where there’s no question we were here first."

Braselton’s firing range was built in July 2007 for $297,000 using federal funds acquired by Braselton, according to Assistant Police Chief Lou Solis. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency with the Department of Homeland Security, contributed $50,000 for turning targets. In addition, the FBI built the nearby shoot house for $350,000 and later donated it to the town.

At least 39 law enforcement departments in Georgia use the range, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Army and the Jefferson, Oakwood and Gainesville police departments.

At both Hoschton’s work session and meeting, residents asked if the city could do anything legally to deal with the problem.

Thomas Mitchell, Hoschton’s attorney, said probably not.

"At least with regard to the noise ordinance, Hoschton doesn’t have the authority to enforce that ordinance outside the city limits," he said.

He added that residents living near the range might have more power in getting something done.

Solis said shooting usually is done between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. with the occasional night fire. He said last year there were three night shoots involving the Chamblee and Duluth police departments and the GBI.

When asked whether the town had constructed a sound barrier for the range, Solis said no. "There’s no funding to build some sound barrier," he said.

But the town may soon get some financial aid to construct one. Solis said Braselton learned Friday that U.S. Rep. Paul Broun’s office has offered to help secure $174,000 to construct a sound barrier for the range.

Town manager Jennifer Dees said the funding will come after a town-sponsored acoustics study by Ballentine Walker Smith is completed.

"Last fall (October 2008) we hired an acoustical specialist to run sound tests and design a solution for sound barrier control," Dees said in an e-mail. "Once he has completed his study and has a recommendation, Congressman Broun’s office has agreed to help us secure funding."

In the meantime, Hoschton residents said they would attend Braselton’s next council meeting to share their concerns with council members.



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