Barhamsville residents, Curtis Security sound off on proposed tactical facility concerns

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

With the New Kent County Planning Commission scheduled to act on Curtis Security’s proposed tactical facility Monday, Barhamsville residents and Curtis Security are amping up the discussion.

As proposed, the facility would be built on 266 acres the company owns at 4401 Barhamsville Road, located behind the post office. Curtis estimates it would bring 20 jobs to the county.

The facility would initially include four shooting ranges, an off-road driving course and minimal housing for military, law enforcement, government and other agencies to pursue training in firearm use and safety, safe and secure driving and counter surveillance, according to Curtis Security’s conditional use permit application.

If approved, Curtis Security said they plan on adding a fifth shooting range.

The company, which offers security and surveillance training and consulting to government and nongovernmental entities, does not own or operate any similar facilities.

Curtis Security Consulting Inc. was created in late March 2018 before it applied for the conditional use permit and presented its proposal for the facility to the county.

The company was created out of Curtis Contracting Inc., owned by local businessman Andy Curtis. Curtis is one of the co-managers of Curtis Security. His daughter, Kaitlyn Curtis, is president.

Curtis Security filed incorporation papers with the state to become a separate company and move ahead with the tactical range proposal.

The proposal is under review by the county planning department and Planning Commission. Officials are looking at whether the proposal violates county noise ordinances and whether it is in compliance with the county’s comprehensive plan, according to the New Kent County planning department.

Noise concerns

Curtis Security conducted its own sound test at the property in May to find the initial effects of firearm noise. The company will present those findings to the New Kent Planning Commission.

Curtis measured the ambient noise level and noise level affected by a pistol, rifle and shotgun blank, with a sound meter at multiple locations on the property, as well as places adjacent to and near the property.

The maximum decibel the company measured was 75 decibels by a rifle at the south side of the proposed ranges. The ambient noise measured ranged between 44-71 decibels, according to Curtis Security’s sound analysis document.

Curtis Security also hired a third-party engineer to conduct sound tests at the beginning of July. Those results will also be presented to the Planning Commission.

Robert Hale, a environmental scientist, marine science professor at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Barhamsville resident and member of the No Combat Range New Kent group did his own measurements of the ambient noise in the area.

“This is a very quiet area. I got 30-40 decibels of ambient or background noise when I measured it,” he said.

Hale and Curtis Security measured the noise levels at some of the same spots and times, and both used sound meters.

Hale, whose property is adjacent to the Curtis property, is concerned about the safety of his 10 horses and his neighbors, including Dream Catchers Therapeutic Riding Center and Holly Fork Farm.

Other concerns

Curtis Security expects to make $40 million in revenue withing the first 36 months of operating the facility, according to an economic fact sheet prepared by the company.

Its conditional use permit application states the maximum number of people at the facility would be 120, but company representatives have stated publicly they only see the facility having 40-60 people on-site at one time.

Curtis Security said its firearm ranges will be covered by a full-length roof, surrounded by earthen berms and will have ballistic bullet-catching material underneath the roof in the range.

Originally, the company said the ranges would be covered by a partial roof near the shooters, but then went on to state the full length and width of the ranges would be covered by a roof.

Barhamsville resident and No Combat Range New Kent group member John Lockwood said he doesn’t think Curtis Security can guarantee that their measures will stop a stray bullet from leaving the range.

“Their control is the end of the range, they can’t make any guarantees,” Lockwood said. “Other facilities have surface danger zones, which is miles of land free of residences, people or anything, in case of ricochet or stray bullets, and this facility won’t have that.”

A surface danger zone is the ground and air above the range in which people, equipment, residences, etc., could be in danger because of firearm activities.

Curtis Security co-manager Rob Middaugh said the company’s surface danger zone ends at the range walls in the self-contained range.

“We would have baffling made out of ballistic material under the roof, so if you point your gun up in the air, the ballistic material would catch the bullet,” Middaugh said. “The bullet can’t leave the range. It’s a self-contained range.”

Lockwood said the proposed tactical facility is a serious concern to him and his fellow residents.

“This is our neighborhood and we aren’t going to put up with it without a fight.”

What’s next

The New Kent County Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday to take action on the proposal.

The meeting will be held at the New Kent High School auditorium, 7365 Egypt Road, in anticipation of large turnout.

The Planning Commission must recommend the proposal be moved on to the Board of Supervisors in order for the process to move forward.

If the proposal is recommended, it will be heard by the board in greater depth and a public hearing will be held before voting.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038 or aluck@tidewaterreview.com

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