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City Council hears request for indoor firing range

By Jonathan Pleasant
Mountain City leaders received a request to allow the building of an indoor firing range within the city limits at Tuesday night’s town council meeting. Intended to be located near a pawn shop on Highway 67, there were naturally concerns about noise issues and whether such as business could even actually be allowed under the city’s current regulations. Although ordinances do prohibit the discharge of firearms within the town limits, City Attorney Steve McEwen indicated that the issue may not be a simple one.
Having consulted with attorneys in the state’s Municipal Technical Assistance Service, McEwen discovered that an indoor firing range might legally be permitted depending on factors such as construction and safety. Further, once established McEwen pointed out that the only recourse for noise problems or other issues would likely be a private nuisance suit brought by a concerned citizen.
At this early stage there are still far more questions than answers, but the board did take an interest into doing further research. The site is zoned B-1 and does carry certain limitations, leading to a suggestion that City Planner Ronda Sawyer take an in depth look at the situation.
Mayor Lawrence Keeble gave an update to the rest of the council members concerning ongoing legislation with the state that would create tax incentives for qualifying businesses. Designated as the Adventure Tourism Bill, the law was intended to aid in the creation of new outdoor recreation businesses, but as Keeble revealed from his role on the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority, the first actual details have been less than positive.
Initially hoping to designate the entire Mountain City business district as an adventure tourism district, Keeble explained that this would not work because currently only qualifying businesses can be located within the district’s boundaries. Furthermore, to even qualify potential or existing businesses must have at least 13 full time employees and create more than $500,000 in economic impact. With such strict and difficult regulations, Keeble could not see where the law could really play a role in Mountain City, a sad realization that the rest of the board seemed to agree with.
On a more positive note, Keeble also announced an update on the state’s bridge replacement project near Village Apartments. While currently a concrete span bridge, the new structure will likely be replaced with a prefabricated concrete box culvert, similar to the bridge used near the Welcome Center on Highway 421. Public Works Director Bob Eller assured the council that these types of culverts are cheaper, easier to install, and come in a range of sizes to appropriately handle the flow of water at a particular site.
Police Chief Denver Church was present at the meeting to make a recommendation to the board pertaining to a recent vacancy in his department. After accepting a new round of applications Church indicated his wish to hire Jason Arnold to the position. As an already certified officer, Arnold would be able to step right in and bring the force back to full capacity, one of the main reasons that Alderman Bob Morrison made the successful motion to approve Church’s recommendation.
The board also resumed conversation about the ongoing Goose Creek Trail project this month. Having met back with the remaining property owners along the proposed route, Mayor Keeble and Vice Mayor Bud Crosswhite were both pleased to report that there has been a great deal of progress. Currently all but four property owners have been willing to discuss the trail, with both Crosswhite and Keeble hoping to touch base with everyone over the next few weeks.
The plan for the trail as it was intended follows adjacent to Goose Creek from Ralph Stout Park to the Johnson County/Mountain City Welcome Center. Because the land lies in a recognized floodplain it can be used for little else than a trail and many owners have agreed to allow the city an easement for its construction. However, without full support the city may be forced to consider an alternative that would put the trail on the state’s right of way alongside Highway 421.
Because the creek side would be a much more pleasurable experience for trail users and because the right of way option would take an additional six foot off of the shoulder and consequently adjacent parking lots, city leaders have been trying to convince these last few property owners of the many benefits the trail can bring. With a deadline for construction of May 2015, time is starting to grow short on the project, but the council did decide to hold off for a few more days to provide extra time for discussion.
To that effect, the board made a decision to hold a special city council meeting on March 18th at 5:00 pm. Keeble and Crosswhite will present their results at that time and the council will likely make a decision whether to move ahead with the original plan or change to the right of way option.
One of the last decisions of the evening involved the re-appointment of the Town of Mountain City Health and Educational Facilities Board. Created more than 20 years ago for a bond issue concerning the local nursing home, this board has met only infrequently, but is still considered active by the state. Having basically rediscovered its existence, Mayor Keeble contacted all seven of the original directors, who were still willing to serve. As such, a motion was made to reappoint all seats on the board with Keeble indicating that the council would try to be more diligent with the appointments in the future.
Having reached the end of the agenda with no further items or concerns from either the council or the audience, Alderman Bob Morrison made the motion to adjourn.