In a grinding five-hour evening session, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 on board chair Patrick Jones’ request to change the zoning on his 150-acre Millville Plains parcel from 40-acre residential to commercial/recreational, greenlighting Jones’ dream to build a world-class shooting sports center in Shasta County. More than 50 speakers addressed that topic alone.
District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye, District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman and District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom voted for the zoning change amendment.
District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert voted against the zoning change.
Garman, whose stance on the zoning change was unknown before the meeting, turned out to be the swing vote, signaling his intentions after a contentious hours-long meeting in which Millville Plains property owners opposed to the range dueled with shooting enthusiasts, many of whom claimed to be customers and/or personal friends with Jones or his family.
“I’m going to support this,” Garman said, admitting he had to set his hatred for Jones aside to approve the project.
Garman claimed he conducted his own noise test on the property, and it passed.
“We need a place that’s not Keswick,” Garman said. “We need a place that’s safe to shoot.”
Garman was referring to the gun range at Keswick/Iron Mountain on BLM land. The self-governed range of questionable legality is infamous for bullet-sparked brush fires. Somehow the fact that Jones’ property is strewn with ricochet-causing rocks in three-feet-high bone-dry grass eluded the district 2 supervisor.
To be fair, Garman may have been distracted during the public speaking period, when two MAGA members from his district threatened to vote against him next March if he voted against the gun range.
The proposed gun range, to be called the High Plains Shooting Sports Center, is located in District 3. Supervisor Rickert noted that the board majority had previously rejected three large projects that encroached on eastern Shasta County’s rural way of life and the gun range proposal was nothing different.
“I opposed Tierra Robles, Fountain Wind, the high-density housing project in Palo Cedro, and I don’t feel this [the gun range project] is consistent with what my voting record has been,” she said. “I haven’t had one constituent tell me they wanted this project there. They have the right to live in peace and harmony.”
“We are prepared to press this further,” said Judy Hoffman, a longtime Millville Plains landowner who raises show goats on the old Dersch homestead on Bear Creek next to the proposed gun range’s eastern border.
Several of the Millville Plains landowners informed A News Café they intend to file a class action lawsuit to force the county to conduct an environmental impact report on the project. If that fails, they may file a “takings” case in federal court, seeking compensation for any loss in property values caused by the presence of the gun range.
The debate over Resolution 2, Shasta County Zone Amendment 13-007, Jones’ request to change the zoning on his parcel from Limited-Residential combined with Mobile Home and Building Site 40-acre Minimum Lot Area (R-L-T-BA-40) to a Commercial Recreation (C- R) zone district, began with a short presentation on the project by senior planner David Schlegel.
Jones, who recused himself from the vote but remained present in the audience as the project’s applicant as vice chair Garman led the meeting, stepped up to the lectern and presented a short drones-eye-view video of the range, explaining how it’s been his dream since he was 9 years old to build the range.
He claimed the gunshot noise from the shooting center was inaudible to local residents except for the rifles, which isn’t true. He had to mitigate the shotgun ranges for excessive noise too. And residents will still be able to hear the gunshots. They’ll just allegedly be under 50 dBA per hour.
The public comment portion of the debate started with a literal bang when gun range proponent Janet Chandler confirmed every sane person’s worst fear, that the High Plains Shooting Sport Center is the perfect place for our well-regulated local militia to hone their skills.
What could possibly go wrong?
Property owner Dennis Patterson explained how he moved to the Millville Plains 20 years ago, after Petaluma, in a similar zoning move, forced him to get rid of his cattle and horses. A gun range in the middle of a rural residential area doesn’t make sense to him.
“If the gun range was there, I would have never bought this property,” Patterson said.
Then he repeated something several other property owners had noticed. If the project is so consistent with the general plan, why do they have to do a zoning amendment?
Jan Lopez, who said she’s spent 30 years working on CEQA applications, was among several environmentalists calling for an EIR.
“It needs a full EIR,” she said. “You do need to hire someone independent.”
Shasta Environmental Alliance’s David Ledger also weighed in against the zoning change.
“We are opposed to this project primarily because we believe in these areas there are rare and endangered species,” he said. “It doesn’t follow CEQA guidelines.”
After the public comment period was over, Jones left the building. Supervisor Crye asked county counsel Mathew McOmber if he could provide advice on the conflict of interest allegation lodged by former Shasta County public defender Jeff Gorder. Gorder says radio ad Jones has been running against Crye’s recall represent a campaign donation and prohibit Crye from voting on Jones’ project.
McOmber told Jones he couldn’t advise him on the issue other than tell him to contact a private attorney.
Crye chose to vote yes on the project. It remains to be seen if the Millville Plains residents can raise a successful legal challenge.