The Chickamauga Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Chickamauga Civic Center at 1817 Lee Clarkson Road.
CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — "Help!!"
So begins a note taped to the front counter of the Academy for Little People, pleading for parents to sign a petition against a shooting range proposed across LaFayette Road from the day care center.
"That building right there is 356 feet from my playground," day care Director Sharon Armour said Tuesday afternoon. "I'm not opposed to guns. I'm all for a person's rights to bear arms. But I do not want guns going off this close to a child care center."
Armour will present the petitions to the Chickamauga Planning Commission Thursday night. She'll urge commissioners to reject a proposal by Paul Chapman to open a shooting range behind a metal-sided building at 1568 LaFayette Road that previously housed G&H Farm & Garden supply.
Chapman wants to lease the building for his ammunition manufacturing business, North Georgia Firearms & Ammunition, which has outgrown its rented space in Fort Oglethorpe. He also wants to build a gun range behind the building.
The range would be 525 feet away from the day care's playground, he said, and shooters wouldn't aim toward the day care; they'd shoot north, parallel to LaFayette Road. The range also would be about eight feet lower than the road, surrounded by a five-foot-tall berm, he said.
"There's no chance of a stray bullet coming out," Chapman said.
On Tuesday, Chapman enrolled his 4-year-old daughter for an upcoming pre-kindergarten class at the Academy for Little People.
"If I thought it was going to be dangerous, I would not put my child down there," he said.
Chapman grew up in Chickamauga and has operated his ammunition manufacturing business for 18 months in Fort Oglethorpe. Its five full-time and five part-time employees make 100,000 rounds of handgun and rifle ammo per week. Customers include the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department, he said.
There's no risk from ammunition manufacturing, because the smokeless propellants used in the process aren't explosive, Chapman said.
Armour doesn't oppose the ammunition business, only the shooting range.
Even if the range is rejected, "I'll still bring my [operation] down here," said Chapman, who also does retail sales of guns.
The vote from the five-member planning commission meets is only advisory. The City Council will have the final say at its May 7 meeting on whether to approve the gun range.
Sometimes the council follows the planning commission's recommendation, sometimes it doesn't, Zoning Administrator Jim Powell said.
"I've seen it go both ways," Powell said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.