BY KEVIN DUGGAN
A proposal to establish an outdoor shooting range southeast of Fort Collins moved ahead Monday over the protests of nearby property owners.
The Larimer County commissioners unanimously approved a zoning exception for a plan by Colorado Youth Outdoors, or CYO, which owns 240 acres just east of Interstate 25 between Larimer County roads 34C and 36, that include a five-station trap-shooting range.
Commissioner Randy Eubanks said the shooting range is compatible with the area.
“I think the safety and noise issues can be mitigated,” he said.
The commissioners imposed conditions that would restrict the range’s hours of operation and limit shooting to 75 days a year. Otherwise, they supported the organization’s proposal despite concerns expressed by neighboring land owners.
The area, which is known as Swift Ponds, has been open to hunting and fishing by youth-oriented nonprofit organizations for many years. CYO, which bought the property last year, has plans for a variety of improvements at the site, including an education pavilion and indoor shooting range.
But the group’s proposal to operate a trap range on the property that would be open to CYO’s after-school programs as well as other nonprofit organizations, including 4-H and Boy Scouts, raised the hackles of nearby property owners.
Neighbors from as far away as Ptarmigan, which is more than a mile from the site, told the commissioners noise from the proposed range would disturb residents and harm property values.
The area around the property is open agricultural land now, critics said, but in the years to come it is likely to be transformed into residential and commercial developments.
Longtime local developer Bob Everitt, who is not involved in any projects in the area, said the range would drive down property values for current owners and in the future.
“I just don’t think this is the right place for a shooting range,” he said.
Noise from the range would be muffled as much as possible with berms, landscaping and other measures, said Bob Hewson, executive director of CYO. Sound tests have shown most of the noise from shotguns would not violate county noise restrictions.
Supporters of the organization said the location is ideal for programming aimed at bringing youth and their parents together for outdoor activities.
Struggling to keep his emotions under control, CYO volunteer Jim Moser said the organization’s work makes a difference with families.
“If you could see these parents and students bond … you wouldn’t fight our organization,” Moser said.
Businessman Dallas Horton, who is part owner of land directly south of CYO’s property, said he has nothing against the organization. But a shooting range would affect his property, which is slated to someday hold 750 homes and retail development.
The land was annexed into Windsor seven years ago.
“I’m in support of 100 percent of what they want to do except the shooting range because it will devalue our property,” he said.
Horton said the organization should look to build a range somewhere else.
But shooting ranges have been difficult to establish anywhere along the Front Range, Commissioner Glenn Gibson said.
“We’ve been trying for six years to find a shooting range,” he said. “It’s just not that easy.”