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Gun-range proponent taking another shot at new facility

'I’m not comfortable with setting the precedent of offering an exception to allow a privately operated gun range within the city limits,' says councillor
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Plans for a shooting range in south Barrie continue to fire blanks.

Councillors will consider a motion Wednesday night to deny an exemption to the city’s regulatory bylaw to permit an indoor sport shooting and gun range.

“With how urban Barrie is, it may be more appropriate for a gun range to be in one of our bordering municipalities that are more rural and have far less sensitive uses in commercial areas to conflict with,” said Ward 7 Coun. Gary Harvey.

“I’m not comfortable with setting the precedent of offering an exception to allow a privately operated gun range within the city limits,” said Ward 8 Coun. Jim Harris.

Barrie’s regulatory bylaw permits the discharge of firearms only in these specific cases: police officers discharging a firearm in the course of carrying out their duties; a municipal law enforcement officer destroying an animal; a shooting competition or display, provided council has given its consent to hold the competition or display; and activities carried out at the Barrie Armoury by the Department of National Defence at 37 Parkside Dr. In addition, no one shall discharge any firearm, either for gain or in such a manner or in such places, as to disturb other people.

In October 2021, the proponents of a proposed indoor sport shooting and gun range, Roger and Connie Gray, sought an exemption from the regulatory bylaw to permit the range at 342 King St., in Ward 7.

Roger Gray told councillors his facility would be a state-of-the-art shooting range, with a three-tiered educational facility that would serve as a private club to members of the public, hunters, sport shooters, as well as local law enforcement, military personnel and the security industry. He said the range would meet all security and sound abatement standards, using the most advanced sound proofing and buffers. 

During the discussions related to the exemption request, however, city staff say Gray indicated he would be working with Action Target to complete the construction of the indoor gun range, as he had no past experience either constructing or operating an indoor gun range.

While 342 King had been the first proposed location of the range, it was changed last early June to 649 Bayview Dr., in Ward 8. It’s located north of Saunders Road, west of Hopper Road and on the east side of Bayview Drive.

The property was vacant, its owner was in the process of building a new commercial building and willing to house an indoor range facility. This property is zoned light industrial, and an indoor shooting range is permitted under the city’s zoning bylaw, although it would still require an exemption from Barrie’s regulatory bylaw.  

Gray was asked to identify any sensitive uses within 500 metres from the Bayview Drive location and prepare a mail-out to all affected businesses.  

Staff were told by Gray on June 9, 2022, that he had canvassed and provided a letter to area businesses about locating the indoor gun range in the area, and that no comments were received.

So city staff did an independent review of a shooting range at 649 Bayview and noted several sensitive-use properties within a 500-metre area, including a dance studio, a hockey school, a gymnastics club and an indoor children’s playground at the adjoining property.

A total of 72 properties and buildings are located within the 500-metre area, several with multiple business units, according to staff. Fifteen email responses were received and, of those, 10 were in support of the proposed facility while five were opposed or had noted concerns.

Staff also contacted the Chief Firearms Office of Ontario (CFO) to discuss the construction of an indoor gun range, which would have to be approved by the CFO and required to follow all regulations set out in its legislation.

The CFO said some of the information received from Gray is inconsistent with the information staff received, notably that Action Target, which would design and build the indoor gun range, is approved to construct and operate a range.

“Staff have completed their due diligence on this matter,” Harvey said, “and it definitely appears that both of the locations that were being considered by the applicant have several sensitive uses within a close proximity, which poses an issue.”

“I am in support of the recommendation and direction outlined in the staff report,” said Harris, referring to the denial.

Whichever decision councillors make on this matter will be considered for final approval at the Dec. 7 city council meeting.