Pinellas News

Tarpon commission OKs indoor gun range site plan

— A large gun range on U.S. 19 continues to be in Tarpon Springs’ future.

City commissioners wrapped up two-plus hours of debate last week by unanimously approving the site plan for Reload Gun Range. The 5-0 decision follows the Planning and Zoning Board’s 7-0 vote of approval last month.

“We want to be good neighbors, and I think we’ve done everything we can to do that,” said Justin Floyd, a representative of the applicant, Clearwater-based Whole Development Construction Corporation. “I think we’ve went above and beyond.”

Reload Gun Range’s current site plan calls for a 57,533-square-foot indoor shooting facility and two 5,500-square-foot flex-warehouse buildings. The entirety of the complex would be located at 40050 U.S. 19 N., a 4.39-acre plot that holds the dilapidated former homes of IHOP restaurant and Days Inn Motel.

Attracting a project to replace the numerous rundown eyesores along heavily used U.S. 19 has been a priority for the city, adding to Reload Gun Range’s current allure. Floyd said Whole Development and its team of engineers and designers anticipate 200 to 250 construction jobs to be created to build the facility and then 25-40 employees at the range once it is up and running. An operational business occupying the property would also increase tax revenue for the city.

The range proposal has elicited plenty of emotions from residents both for and against its construction.

Emails have been flowing into city inboxes since the proposal first went public earlier this year, many using copious amount of capitalization for further emphasis.

Concerns commonly voiced or written included the negative impact of increasing the number of guns in the city, noise pollution, lead pollution from bullets, increased traffic congestion and whether the business fits with the city’s character and cultural heritage.

Although the site plan passed unanimously, Commissioner Jeff Larsen harbored reservations about the gun range and questioned its suitability and large size.

His initial motion to defer approval to a later date failed when it wasn’t seconded. He then agreed to vote in favor of Commissioner Townsend Tarapani’s motion to approve the site plan on the condition that a military-grade combat tank pictured in artist-rendered designs was removed.