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The Rockbridge County Board of Zoning Appeals ruled on Dec. 19 that Quail Ridge Sporting Club must obtain a special-exception permit.

LEXINGTON — The owners of Quail Ridge Sporting Club have petitioned in Rockbridge County Circuit Court to overturn a zoning decision that required them to stop rifle and pistol shooting at their outdoor range.

The board of zoning appeals voted Dec. 19 to uphold a ruling that Quail Ridge was not allowed to offer commercial rifle and pistol shooting at its outdoor range. The county said the range would have to either apply for a special-exception permit or stop the shooting.

Scott and Crystal Guise purchased the sporting club in 2017 from its original owners, Chris and Lori Salb.

Salb opened what was then called Quail Ridge Sporting Clays in 1992 along Murat Road just outside Lexington. The range was small and mostly operated on the weekends for people to shoot clays. Eventually, Salb cut down trees and created a 300-foot-long clearing where people could shoot rifles and pistols.

In 2007, Rockbridge County created an ordinance requiring outdoor gun ranges to obtain a special-exception permit to operate in agriculture districts. Administrators agreed to grandfather in Quail Ridge and two other gun ranges that were operating prior to the new ordinance’s adoption.

When the Guises purchased the property, they wanted to get the grandfathered status in writing. Sam Crickenberger, the county’s director of community development, sent them a signed letter that read, “All current activities may continue as they are as long as they do not cease for a two-year period.”

The county argued its zoning office was not aware there was commercial rifle and pistol shooting on the range and that the previous owner did not specify those activities in business license applications.

According to the county’s definition in its ordinance, an outdoor range is “a permanently located and improved area that is designed and operated for the use of rifles, shotguns, pistols, silhouettes, sporting clay, skeet, trap, black powder or other similar shooting sport in an outdoor environment operated as either a business or club.”

The Guises argue that the county does not state those activities have to be individually listed or approved since they are listed under one definition in the ordinance.

The Guises also argue that the signed letter from Crickenberger means they have the right to continue rifle and pistol shooting because it was an activity occurring before and at the time the letter was sent. Additionally, people were shooting rifles and pistols at the outdoor range when it was grandfathered into the new ordinance in 2007.

After purchasing the range, the Guises say they have made nearly $500,000 in improvements to the 75-acre property, including clearing brush, replacing old shooting stations and laying down new gravel.

Guise said his goal for the past decade, even before purchasing the range, was to create a place where he could employ veterans, especially those who are disabled.

The Guises filed two court documents — a complaint for declaratory relief and a petition for a writ of certiorari — at the end of January. The filings name Rockbridge County and the county’s board of supervisors as defendants. The board of zoning appeals is appointed by the supervisors.

“The actions of the defendants have and will cause the Guises to suffer immediate hardship, uncertainty, irreparable injury, loss, and damage,” the filing reads. “The Guises are confronted with continuing uncertainty and insecurity as a result of the defendants’ actions.”

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Alison Graham covers Botetourt and Rockbridge counties and Lexington. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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