Reality Check: Shooting range near NC homes is legal, but under fire - WNCN: News, Weather

Reality Check: Shooting range near NC homes is legal, but under fire

By Annette Newell

Residents near the Drake Landing hunting preserve in Harnett County continue their fight against the range by filing a lawsuit claiming it's operating too close to their homes.

NBC-17 first reported in December about homes being hit by stray bullets. Now, some neighbors have teamed up in a lawsuit to challenge the county's contention that it cannot regulate the business because it's "agri-tourism."

Kent Jeffries is one of those neighbors fighting the range. He says he's used to hearing gunshots as he works on his family's property, but he thinks he shouldn't have to.

"The rifle range and pistol pit are in that direction," said Jeffries, pointing in the direction of the range, which is about half a mile from his backyard. "These shooting ranges pose a hazard to the community. They also have a negative impact on the quality of life."

But the reality is that back in 2006, the General Assembly changed a law so that local zoning regulations don't apply to agricultural uses like agri-tourism.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has put out two opinion letters saying the hunting and shooting at Drake Landing are perfectly legal. They qualify as agri-tourism, and that means they're exempt from local zoning laws.

"Shooting those kinds of things have always been considered agri-tourism," said David McLeod, Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture for North Carolina.

Even if the homes are only about half a mile away, McLeod says it can be agri-tourism. Whether or not it's acceptable "depends on the facts and the circumstances," he said.

Harnett County's senior zoning inspector has ruled that Drake Landing is agri-tourism, and local zoning regulations don't apply.

But some homeowners say that's not acceptable.

"The county has interpreted the statutes in a certain way that benefits the operator of Drake Landing," said Jeffries.

NBC-17 tried to reach Drake Landing's owner for a comment Wednesday and were told he was out of town.

The bottom line is that this battle heads next to Superior Court in March.

Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins says he'll hold a public meeting for people concerned about Drake Landing. The meeting will take place on Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Harnett County government complex.

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