Gun Range Silenced - board holds off until litigation ends
Salesha Wilken Staff Reporter
The Rogers County Board of Adjustments met Tuesday evening in a very controversial and heated meeting to decide if a special exception could be granted for Green Country Safe Shooters to reopen a gun range near Oologah.
The board voted unanimously to wait until litigation between the owner Byron Dykes and area citizens was concluded before making any decision regarding the operation.
“Whatever decision we make they are going to use to pander to the judge,” Chairman Dan Johnston said.
This hearing was an afterthought as the range had been operating for two years until Judge Dynda Post closed it for public safety and nuisance reasons, according to Johnston.
Lynn Vandeventer and Todd Springer were also present for the meeting, however, comments were limited.
The decision came after four hours of conversation and more than 20 people present at the meeting spoke for and against the proposal.
The public meeting was held on the second floor of the courthouse, and people overflowed from the courtroom and lined the hallway to hear the discussion.
At one point in the meeting, pictures of bullet holes and an audio recording of the range operations were presented to the board.
The board was tasked to make a decision to determine if the range could reopen and operate in a reasonable manner that would be “harmonious to the neighborhood.”
Attorneys for both the citizens and Dykes also presented information to the board.
The public comments took over the meeting and included a wide range of opinions.
Supporters for the gun range came from nine different cities some as far as three hours away.
Military specialists, firearm professionals and safety inspectors, all gave testimony to the safety of the range.
Comments that opposed the range were limited to the citizens that lived directly around the facility.
“I drove three hours to tell you this, I am from Blanchard, Oklahoma and I am a lifetime member of the TDSA. There is not a more qualified group of instructors than that at the range. I see no reason why the instructors should have their livelihood taken away,” Scott Duran said. “Firearms are a part of our country and have been since the beginning and we need the right proper facility to train in.”
“It is a constant thing from sun up to sun down,” Brent Salt said.
Salt then added that everything he has is at danger because of the range, his wife and his kids.
The history of the range is scattered and neither the board nor other county officials could completely explain how the business was allowed to operate without the exception.
Dykes testified that he was told, “I was good to go” by both the planning commission and Commissioner Mike Helm.
Dykes and the citizens represented in the legal action will return to district court after the first of the year.
Any decision by the board will be done after the issue is resolved in that hearing.