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Explosions, now legal, have county officials looking for silence
North Hall resident causing concern for neighbors
Scott Gibbs 2013
Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs

The explosions down the road, rocking nearby homes, knocking out windows and scaring off pets, would have alarmed residents in this rural part of North Hall if they didn’t already come to expect the sound.

The origin of what sounded like a bomb going off was indeed no mystery to residents on Jerry Burrus Road in Murrayville, and all perfectly legal, but these neighbors worried the nuisance might become a danger again.

And now local officials are looking to muffle the blasts — not just here, but throughout Hall County.

The neighbors had expressed these concerns before to county commissioners, administrators and law enforcement.

“We thought we had put it to bed,” Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs said.

But they were back before officials this week, making clear that the familiar explosions had returned.

Jordan Smith, 24, lives in what we today call “the country.”

Like many Americans, Smith uses Tannerite — the brand name for an ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder product that creates a powerful explosive when mixed — for target practice on his rural property.

The powders are allowed to be mixed to create up to 50 pounds of explosive material.

Youtube videos attest to the powerful explosions possible when a rifle bullet tears into the product.

Tannerite skirts some legal restrictions on explosive materials because the two ingredients are packaged separately.

Maryland and the U.S. Forest Service, however, do have bans on the purchase and use of the product in their jurisdiction.

Though Smith is within his legal rights to use Tannerite on his land, he was booked on a reckless conduct charge in March after neighbors reported seeing him fire a gun into or near a public road.

The Sheriff’s Office incident report notes that toilet parts were destroyed in the blast.

Though the explosions have reportedly returned in recent weeks, Smith has not broken any laws.

He did not offer comment on specific questions asked by The Times, but acknowledged that he has spoken to some neighbors and said he limits the frequency of the explosions.

Commissioners have directed the county attorney to explore lawful ordinances to restrict where and when Tannerite can be exploded in Hall.

Property size will likely be a critical factor in determining any regulations, Gibbs said, as well as distance requirements from residential homes.

“You have to be careful about it,” Gibbs cautioned, before adding, “When your right infringes on somebody else’s, then that’s a problem.”