Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Shooting nuisance tabled for due process


November 14, 2019

Consideration of a complaint over an alleged shooting nuisance in the Sundance Canyon Ranch subdivision will be delayed until December because the accused was not present at last week’s meeting of the county commissioners. On the advice of County Attorney Joe Baron, notice will first be sent to the landowner against whom the complaint has been made.

“I think that, any time that you hear a need to hear both parties before you make a decision,” Baron said.

The accused should have a chance to respond to the allegations, Baron said. Meanwhile, should the commission decide to proceed with a nuisance order, there is due process that will need to be followed.

The complaint centers around an alleged shooting nuisance in the Sundance Canyon Ranch area. The accused is said to have constructed and operated a private shooting range within that residential development, leading to two alleged ricochet events.

During one of the claimed ricochet events, three rounds passed over a neighboring landowner’s head as he was initiating construction activities on his own tract of land; one hit a tree around 20 feet from where he was standing. Two years later, in June, 2019, the second event occurred when the landowner was removing blades from his riding mower.

Between June and August of this year, the accused is said to have shot on at least 17 days for at least two to three hours each time, and sometimes two or three times a day. The complaint calls this a “significant noise nuisance” as well as a “substantial safety hazard” because the private shooting range allegedly does not have an NRA-approved/certified backstop.

According to the Crook County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, development and actions on private property that the board determines to be a threat to public health and safety or that adversely affects the value of adjacent property may be declared a nuisance and abated. The covenants for Sundance Canyon Ranch also prohibit noxious activity on tracts.

The complainants make the case that the shooting range is indeed affecting property values, noting that an interested buyer turned down a tract to the north of the accused’s land on the basis that he would be putting his grandchildren’s safety at risk. The complainants also note that the County Clerk’s Office holds no record of approval of a shooting range in the subdivision and that the shooting range fails to meet the requirements of state statute for the protection of shooting range activities.

An incident report from the Crook County Sheriff’s Office states that, after the first ricochet event, the accused moved and reoriented his gun range, after which there were no more problems until June, 2019. The sergeant who spoke with the complainant and inspected the property and gun range reported telling the complainant that he should speak with an attorney as he may wish to seek a civil order.

Baron also submitted his opinion on the matter, which included his recommendation that the matter be continued until the accused has been given notice.

Regarding shooting range law, he noted that “the county commission has never chosen to regulate shooting ranges pursuant to the authority granted by Wyoming Statute 16-11-101 through 104”. For this reason, Baron said, the statutes provide neither prohibition nor protection to either party in this matter.

Baron agreed that the complainant should consult his own attorney to determine his legal rights and responsibilities. He stated his opinion that the commission has a statutory right to declare activities a nuisance and would need to provide due process (the constitutional right to be heard) throughout.

The board will first need to create the process to consider and declare a nuisance, he added.

“If the board decides to act on this landowner’s nuisance complaint, then the board would first need to create the process to proceed and then follow through with the matter to be considered,” said Baron in his submitted opinion.

After explaining this to the complainant, Commissioner Kelly Dennis stated that the issue will be considered in one month after the accused, subdivision developer, service district and landowner have been informed.

“We will set this up on the agenda at the December meeting,” Dennis said.


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