Guest Editorial Graphic Schilling Show Blog

Guest Editorial Graphic Schilling Show BlogOutreach for Community Support to Oppose the Keene Police Firing Range

The County-proposed outdoor police firing range at the environmentally-troubled landfill site at Keene will be a health, safety, and environmental danger and destructive to surrounding communities, farmlands and countryside; is inconsistent with the surrounding rural zoned, Southern Historic and Agricultural Forestal districts lands; is unnecessary and sets dangerous precedents for County action.

We need your help to stop the firing range and this waste of tax dollars. Pertinent facts include:

  • The Keene site is not isolated; it impacts at least 5,000 residents in communities along Porters, Riding Club and other roads, Rt. 6 and even Rt. 20 within 1/4 to 1 mile, easy range for errant bullets and noise. No effort was made to inform these neighborhoods in advance of the proposed devastating change in the rural character of the land, and possible air, water, soil, and noise contamination.
  • Lead, heavy metal, and other toxins from as many as 4,000 bullets fired per day; 1,000,000 a year, will escape into the air, soil, and groundwater, threatening neighbors and the Scottsville water supply.
  • Unendurable noise, averaging six times louder than the level of the County’s existing noise ordinance from as many as 200 gunshot rounds per minute, including automatic weapons bursts, will barrage two elementary schools, 8 churches, a community pool, a social club and countless residents, radiating 5 miles distance, up to 78 square miles. The County has said the noise ordinance need not apply. Why is it OK for only these residents to endure such noise? Who will compensate for their livestock’s low weight gains and sterility, their loss of farm livelihood, the fleeing wildlife and the destruction of their quality of life?
  • Subliminal impacts on school children at Yancey Elementary School, and young and old at the Intergenerational Community Center, each within a mile, will result in behavioral disorders; attention deficit, inability to focus and nervous stress in children and cardiac and neurological damage in adults, especially the elderly. How will children learn in such a din?
  • Property values will decline 30-45%, depriving families of their home values and for many, substantially all their net worth, which also decreases County tax bases and tax revenues.
  • Disturbance of the landfill from construction and facility use may release more of the deadly toxins at the landfill into the soil and groundwater.
  • Estimated $1.6 million cost will prove inadequate and is better spent on the six police officers the County cannot fund, the crumbling infrastructure the County cannot fix, or the educational improvements the County cannot pay for.
  • There are better alternatives: the state of the art State Police Training Center at Nottoway which far exceeds anything Albemarle could build, and requires no capital or maintenance expenditures; the large unused commercial building complex in Scottsville could provide a highly-desirable, safe, covered firing range, to benefit Scottsville’s economy; supplemental use of Augusta County, only 15 minutes away, Harrisonburg or Weyers Cave firing ranges, to name a few.
  • A live firing range with heavy metal toxic bullets is old technology; widely used military training techniques use regionalized state of the art simulation technology, green bullets and silencers; avoiding environmental damage, noise pollution, psychological and physical harm to children, livestock and wildlife deprivation.
  • The County has arbitrarily set aside the noise ordinance for the police range as a ‘public use’. But ‘public use’ means use to which the public has access, not any use the government determines it wants. Such an unwarranted broadening of this phrase’s interpretation sets dangerous precedents for all residents and represents government intrusion.
  • In the name of marginally increased public safety, the County will create a public harm and diminish the public good realized by green open spaces contributed by rural lands.

We want what is best for the County and the police. A firing range at Keene fails this test. With your support we can prevent Albemarle County from harming its citizens and wasting resources on this  dangerous, expensive and destructive project.

Please join SAVE RURAL ALBEMARLE in opposition to the firing range. Find out how you can help at our website: WWW.SAVERURALALB.COM


  1. I do not support this strictly due to economic issue's facing our county, state and nation. I firmly believe utilizing what is already available around us before building something new is the commom sense thinking we lack from most of our represenatives. The indoor suggestion is a very good idea. I would also support the county to expand that idea and open the facitlity to the public. Classes could be given on proper firearm use, gun safety, concealed and carry permits, etc. This would generate money FOR the county and also create good will among the officers and the people they protect.

  2. Build the Keene Firing Range like yesterday. There is nothing there. I am intimately familiar with that area and it would be an ideal location to get the officers some much-needed training. Are you aware that–due to the current arrangement–City and County officers are only getting “trigger time” on their weapons once a year? They should be practicing with their weapons every month! The multitude of nonsensical reasons (my favorite is “animal stress”) given for opposition of the range are all totally self-serving. Stop being so selfish and think about your brother!! NIMBY is killing America.

  3. This plan is a catastrophe from start to finish. Ok, they should know how to fire their guns, BUT, county police fired their guns ONCE in the line of duty related to criminal activity in the past year. ONCE.Does that really warrant spending millions of taxpayer dollars? When schools go begging?.
    The Keene landfill was unregulated. There are 40 acres of all manner of trash that has produced all manner of toxic leachate that has contaminated our groundwater for decades. 45x the legal limit of lead in Jan of 1995 for instance and lots of other toxins and carcinogens that were allowed to simply seep into our water…..look over the files at the Dept of Environmental Quality in Harrisonburg. They all knew it was a failed landfill from the get go…The fact that there seems to be far higher than average rate of cancer deaths in the surrounding communities is rather perturbing…but now the county wants to add insult to injury and introduce more poisons into our environment…and assault us with the constant ,terrifying sounds of gunfire…
    There is no such thing as a safe,clean open firing range-the noise, the pulverized lead and the possibility of errant bullets all contribute to a radically reduced quality of life and health, not to mention the plummeting of property values. For some of us, our homes are our one asset and losing equity impacts us and our options in huge ways.
    This goes way beyond the NIMBY arguments…this is an assault on our lives on many levels and I believe a betrayal of the public trust on the part of the Board of Supervisors.Let the police drive an hour once or twice a year for their training. Really? Is that so inconvenient?? Or build an indoor range in Scottsville. No Open Firing Range!

  4. The county has gone to great lengths in recent years to "preserve the rural character" of Southern Albemarle. The shooting range plan flies in the face of all this effort and destroys the rural character many have sought to preserve. As for the efforts claimed to mitigate the sound level… anyone who has listened to the repeated gunfire of hunters early or late in the day during deer season and turkey season has a pretty good idea of what we can look forward to day in and day out, and around the clock, should this improvidently approved firing range actually be undertaken.

  5. What is going on with the current relationship with the Rivanna Gun range, where the police have been practicing?

  6. As if to illustrate the point I made on the air regarding this issue, as I write this, just six miles from my home, nearly forty police officers are engaged in a stand-off on Rio Mills Road. Now imagine if the citizens of Albemarle County had to wait for the officers to be recalled from the training facility 105 miles away, opposed to the 20 miles they would be summoned from the Keene facility. Now, you can submit ANY arguments you care to, regarding alleged subliminal harm to the children, environmental issues, and other specious arguments. The simple fact is, Albemarle County is no longer the little back woods community I grew up in. Where the big news was Sheriff George Bailey’s busting up another moonshine still. Albemarle County is a growing 21st century community, which unfortunately plagued by the associated problems that accompany such a community. Being six miles from this hot spot, I wholeheartedly support having my police officers here in my county, for issues such as this.

  7. Certainly we all support the goal of well-trained police. The best training they can obtain would be at the state of the art facility run by the VA state police (funded with $45 million and annual maintenance $1.7 m), which is only 85 miles away (not 105), the distance most of us drive for our continuing education requirements. The police are required to shoot only once per year for their certification and even Chief Sellers has said his goal is to have his officers shoot 3 xes per year (the national average is 2 xes per year). Closer ranges, such as Augusta County, only 15 miles away, can provide additional shooting practice. The police estimate 10-20 of their more than 400 officers would train on any one day – this is not a tremendous loss of resources present in the County. Other law enforcement resources, including FBI and SWAT who generally are first responders in crisis scenarios, can respond. Perhaps the County’s dollars are better spent on the 6 officer positions it has been unable to fund. Why has no real cost benefit analysis of the available options been done? Nationally, shooting ranges are being consolidated into regional facilities, simulation technology is being employed and the scenario training is done indoors (they simply drive the cars up and jump into the building for the shooting), in large part due to the environmental and public safety issues attributable to outdoor shooting ranges. A shooting range after a number of years in operation according to the EPA is the equivalent of a superfund site. Lead contamination is proven to cause severe physical and neurological damage, especially to children. Why is Albemarle County unable to train regionally and why would the County spend millions of taxpayer dollars on outdated technology that creates a real risk to public health and safety? The facility as currently proposed will have no protection against noise – 4,000 gunshots per day (Planning Commission report) at levels the police’s computerized studies estimate (likely understated due to the echoing effect of our hills and valleys) will be more than 4xes louder (daytime) to 8 xes louder (nighttime) than the County’s acceptable noise levels in its noise ordinance – no protection against errant bullets hitting people and homes in surrounding communities and no effective protection in preventing lead and other toxic metal residue from contaminating our water and soils. There are two schools and multiple churches within gunshot range. These are not specious arguments and it is not a NIMBY issue! As conceived, it will create a public nuisance and serious health and safety issues. It is not the case that anywhere this is built it will face resident opposition. There is suitable infrastructure for an indoor facility in Scottsville that would provide an economic benefit to the town at the same time it protects public health and safety. If Albemarle ‘must’ have its own, the facility should be located in the right place and designed for safety and protective of the public health. The Keene site will create public health and safety risks, deprive surrounding farms of their livelihood, provide no economic value to the communities, and destroy the rural environment the County has been charged to protect, all in the name of marginally improved public safety and at considerably higher cost than existing alternatives. Before the County spends multi-millions of funds it does not have, it should consult with objective, independent experts who build firing ranges rather than relying entirely on the opinions and views of the police force with regard to the appropriate site and appropriate facilities. Not at Keene and no open firing range!

  8. I am shocked that our county would be okay with destroying the rural/historical community and sinking millions upon millions of dollars into a gun range when there are far better alternatives. The fact that the alternatives are not being considered is ridiculous. The current proposed burm that officers will be shooting at will direct any stray bullets straight into a children’s school. I can’t even begin to think of the negative environmental affects that will occur when they start digging up the old landfill.

  9. zbr’s comments are offensive. I too am very familiar with the area involved. It has been zoned a rural agricultural-forestal area by Albemarle County. Schools and churches are very close to the proposed firing range site. There is ALOT there which will be negatively impacted by this ill thought out plan. The old tire plant in Scottsville could be used and would cause less environmental impact.

  10. We do not need this fireing in Keene. I agree , why can’t they use the old tire plant in Scottsville.

    Two additional points that were discussed on the December 19 show should be clarified:
    1) Other location sites or alternatives were not seriously evaluated to meet the law enforcement needs for qualification and practice shooting.
    Planning Commission staff submitted a report for the Planning Commission meeting on April 3, 2012 at which it considered whether siting the firing range at Keene was substantially in accord with the Comprehensive Plan, a necessary first step in planning the firing range at Keene. The staff report indicated two other properties were under consideration, Preddy Creek and Byrom Park. However, both properties were taken out of the run well before the Keene site review, since Preddy Creek was given approval to become a park in 2006, SIX years earlier, and dedicated in May 2011, and Byrom Park was donated to the County in 2004, and dedicated as a park in August 2011, both dedications nearly a year before Planning Commission consideration of the Keene site. Further, no mention was made of the multiple other alternative sites available, including Nottoway, the VA state police training facility announced in 2008, with a planned 76 lane firing range to open this spring and Augusta County, which has been used by law enforcement in the past and who the police say charges only $500 per unlimited use!
    2) Training using simulation technology has increased proficiency ratings and is now widely used by the military. Simulation can replicate the noise and impact of firing and has the added benefit of replicating being fired at and tactical decision making. Simulation proficiency ratings have outscored live training. Simulation training does not harm the environment, produce lead and other toxic effluents, decrease property values or project noise beyond the facility perimeter.
    The best decisions are made by objective and realistic consideration of alternatives, not by managing the information to fit into a predetermined conclusion. When a proposal is being made for spending millions of taxpayer dollars, at a time when police officer positions, education, infrastructure and other equally important priorities are not being funded, it is incumbent upon our elected representatives to evaluate objectively obtained information, should inquire about the impact on residents and should listen to the objective information in support of the residents’ opposition to the firing range at the Keene site.

  12. I do not support the proposed firing range at Keene. It amazes me how casually the BOS treats the impact of the range on the community. Property valaues will decrease 20-30%. This is an extreme burden on a small portion of the county. They say they take pride in the rural areas of the county,but they are going to destroy it. Who knows what the impact will be on the children in Yancey School? It will certainly hurt them rather than help them. The county has several alteratives that is needs to consider. This plan is bad and they know it. LETS STOP IT NOW@!

  13. The residents of Albemarle County also need to know what the qualifications are of Chief Sellers to manage the proposed firing range. We are opposed.

  14. Last month I went beagle-ing in this beautiful rural area and it was difficult enough to dodge the barbed wire – please don’t make me dodge bullets as well.

  15. I am vehemently opposed to the police outdoor firing range. I cannot imagine what planet our County Supervisors are living on! I’ve heard ONE reason why the site of the former Keene landfill was chosen: The County owns the land. Yeah?! Is that all ya got?! How does that trump the multiple, logical and very serious arguments for why this facility should not be built in this particular location? This site is located in southern Albemarle County in the MIDDLE of a well-established and populated community. It is a diverse community with historical significance and designated agricultural. I have not heard a single convincing argument for ‘why’ this is the only–or even the best–site on which such a facility could be built and multiple reasons ‘why’ it should never be built on this particular site. The County Supervisors approved this project without conducting proper due diligence on the deeply negative impacts of such a facility, without even insisting that basic benchmarks for ensuring health and safety be included in the wording of the approved plan. Our County Supervisors have forgotten for whom they work, what their mandate truly is. They rushed head-long…and in less-than-transparent manner…to approve a plan that should never have been considered. They have deliberately ignored the pleas of their constituents; dismissed the legitimate and very real concerns raised; shirked their collective responsibility to be good stewards in their tenures; and abused the power given them by our votes. I have to wonder why. I must conclude one or both of two things: 1. The police firing range is being located on the site of the old Keene landfill to ‘COVER UP’ landfill toxin contamination with firing range lead contamination; or 2. that the County Supervisors have a vested interest in decimating the Keene, Esmont, and Scottsville communities by encouraging the building of an outdoor firing range that will poison the soil, water, & air [yes, lead particles travel by air!] in southern Albemarle County such that it is no longer safe for habitation by man or animal…much less for growing food or raising livestock that we consume. Add to the poisoning of our natural resources, the disruption to our peace by ‘peace officers,’ the violation of our civil liberties, the devaluation of our homes. Southern Albemarle will be rendered a virtual waste land. If this facility goes forward, I predict the biggest, baddest class action lawsuit ever filed in the state of Virginia slamming the taxpayers of Albemarle County. It will be we, the taxpayers…after all…who will foot the bill for the ignorance and arrogance of our elected officials.

  16. I have copied this from a news article. History repeats???

    WHAT IS THE CRUCIBLE? An anti-terrorist training facility that sits on 88 acres off Jack Ellington Road in Stafford. The company plans to expand operations, given a business boom since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its efforts to move to a larger Stafford site have drawn criticism from neighbors and county officials.

    The project included classrooms, a sound-proof gun range, an urban-combat training center and a one-mile track for driving maneuvers.

    Schardein classified the facility as a school, which was allowed on the agricultural parcel without Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors approval.

    The Crucible filed a site plan for the facility, after spending about $1 million on engineering and design.
    Residents nearby first heard about the project and appealed the school designation to the Board of Zoning appeals.

  17. While serving in the Army, there was a saying that was often heard, especially when a new program or initiative was proposed. It was called the “acid test” and quite simply, it asked, “Does it pass the common sense test?” In the civilian vernacular, one might consider the question, “What would the prudent man do?”

    The proposed Police Shooting Range at the Keene Landfill Site does not pass either of these two tests. This is why.

    >Proximity to populated areas within maximum ranges of commonly used police weapons

    Homes near the Keene Land Fill
    Yancy School
    Irish Road and other roads
    Farms and Livestock

    >Site description and limitations for consideration and rejection of project

    It is only 170 Acres in size

    While being irregular in size, at its visually largest point it measures by map calculation, .5 (1/2) mile latitude and .7 mile longitude
    At the intersection of these two azimuths (lines) populated areas are within the maximum ranges of the rifle calibers commonly used
    Environment? Environmental Impact Study?

    Scenario based shooting – A whole new consideration – Increased risk of errant rounds
    Berm baffles all around — on all berms?

  18. While serving in the Army, there was a saying that was often heard, especially when a new program or initiative was proposed. It was called the “acid test” and quite simply, it asked, “Does it pass the common sense test?” In the civilian vernacular, one might consider the question, “What would the prudent man do?”

    The proposed Police Shooting Range at the Keene Landfill Site does not pass either of these two tests. This is why.

    >Proximity to populated areas within maximum ranges of commonly used police weapons

    Homes near the Keene Land Fill
    Yancy School and Churches
    Irish Road and other roads
    Farms and Livestock

    >Site description and limitations for consideration and rejection of project

    It is only 170 Acres in size

    By map calculation, it measures, .5 (1/2) mile latitude (wide)by .7 mile longitude (long).

    Placing the firing points along any intersection of these two azimuths (lines) exposes populated areas within the maximum ranges of the weapons used.

    >Scenario based shooting most of which it reactive in nature emulating real life situations present a whole variance of problems due to errant and ricocheting rounds, the danger of which puts populated areas and agricultural venture at risk.

    >It has been stated that berms and baffles will be place at the target impact areas. These will not offer sufficient protection against errant or ricocheting rounds with high trajectories caused by accident or carelessness.

    Alternative considerations based on cost/benefit analysis in proposing the Keene Landfill as a shooting range do not appear to be weighed in making the Keene Site decision.

  19. We all support police needing to be adequately trained. However, I am stunned at some of the ignorant comments of people on this issue. “ZBR” above claims to be “intimately familiar” with the area and then goes on to state “there is nothing there!” I have no idea what he’s “intimately familiar” with, but it’s certainly not this area or site. There are about 100 homes surrounding the site, a few churches, as well as many farms, cattle farms and historic plantation homes directly abutting the property!

    There are also 2 MAJOR creeks that feed these farms as well as the Totier, which feeds the Town of Scottsville water supply!

    As far as the comment from Hank Martin above, concerning a stand off occurring near his property and his worry that he’d have to wait an hour for police to show up to a catastrophe, there are currently over 400 officers in this county. If they go for their training, they aren’t sending all of them off at the same time. They are sending 10. This will leave you 390 officers at any given time staying put right here…

    BTW, those of us living “down here” in this part of the county PAY the same taxes as y’all up “in Town”, Farmington, Keswick, & No. Albemarle, and we have NONE of the services you do. We routinely wait 30-60 minutes for police.

    We are constantly under siege from attempts to close our library in Scottsville and close Yancey & Scottsville elementary.

    We have no cell service, and many of us don’t have access to DSL internet, yet we have to drive 40+ minutes to get to “town” to access things the rest of you take for granted.

    We live here ON PURPOSE and do without those amenities, and pay tons more in gas just to drive to Town to work, shop, etc., because we VALUE having a quiet, peaceful, rural life, with no lights so we can see stars. We do not want to have continual gunfire noise, traffic, lights and lead poisoning destroying our lives.

    Those who are so eager for this should offer their own backyards and property as the place for this.

    BTW, there are over 38 STATE FUNDED sites approved for police to shoot, some not even 20 minutes away – Buckingham, Farmville, Fluvanna, a huge one in Lynchburg. Every correctional facility has one. They don’t need to wait for Nottaway to be built. The purpose of these is precisely so county and city tax payers don’t have to be burdened with this need.

    Interesting Albemarle County has over $1.5 million to spend on this, while they claimed last Sept., they didn’t have 1/3 of this to spend on having a septic system or HVAC for Yancey school.

    I suggest they use this money to hire the 6 additional officers Chief Sellers is wishing for and/or use the rest to improve our schools or finally bring high speed internet & cell service to the rest of Esmont, Keene, Scottsville and Howardsville.

  20. The maximum range of commonly-used weapons to be fired exceed the boundaries of the proposed site.

    > YANCEY SCHOOL is only 1 mile away and located in the direction where the Proposed Rifle area is aiming!

    > The proposed Range is in the heart of the RA-4 Rural District as defined and approved by Albemarle County.

    > The Keene site is accessed by a Scenic Byway and a Rural Rustic Road, is surrounded by land in Agricultural Forestal districts, Conservation Eased lands and Rural-Zoned land.

    Three (3) key perennial streams on the site drain directly into the Totier Creek watershed, which supplies Scottsville with water, and all of which is in the Southern Albemarle Historic District with historic communities and their assets in the sights and sounds of the rifle range.

    > Gun fire and sound levels will be heard within a 5-mile radius.

    > There will obviously be continual noise from gun fire, as well as squealing cars and skidding tires as high speed chases are simulated. The location of the Proposed Range is just 1/2-mile (3,122 feet) from the Southern Albemarle Medical Office, the site of the new County BOS-approved Southern Albemarle Intergenerational Daycare & Senior Center, 1.4 miles (7,392 feet) from the New Green Mt. Baptist Church , 1.1 mile (5,280 feet) from the New Hope Baptist Church, 2.6 miles from Christ Church, Glendower, 1.3 miles (6,864 feet) from Yancey Elementary School, and 1.6 miles from Brown’s Market.

    > Noise decibels will be continual, excessive and beyond approved State and County levels at a minimum of a 5 mile radius of the Proposed Site. This includes the Town of Scottsville, portions of North Garden, Glendower and Blenheim Road areas.

    Finally, this excerpt from an open letter to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Albemarle County Planning Commission Members (Mac Lafferty, Ed Smith, Richard Randolph, Don Franco, Calvin Morris, Thomas Loach and Bruce Dotson)from County resident Hal West provides a 21st-Century alternative to what would be enormous harm to the public health and safety for this historic district:

    > A few suggestions seem to be in order to our county police Chief, Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors; namely that there are many better training alternatives available to our police than the outdated, hastily approved, and highly flawed open air police firing range/training area on the abandoned Keene landfill site in southern Albemarle County.

    Historically, simulators have been used extensively and effectively by the airlines and numerous flight schools as a more cost effective/efficient means of education. Nationally, it has been proven that police departments, as well as the military, are implementing and receiving far better training and use of their funding by the implementation of state of the art simulator training.

    The top names in simulators include:,, and

    Every situation that a police officer could encounter is addressed in one of many available scenarios by any one of these companies. Examples are: active shooters, ambushes, disturbances, domestic violence, hostage situations, high risk entries, suicidal subjects, off-duty, skill drills, and traffic stops. In addition, the efficient use of equipment to support an officer is addressed. The most common being: body armor, flashlights, pepper spray, k9 products, vehicle equipment, bean bag shots, pistol, rifle, and shotgun use. Simulation training is so advanced that visual, audio, and touch techniques are used effectively to enhance the experience of live fire encounter situations, and instant review and feed back can be given to help enhance the training experience. Auto driving scenarios can also be done and reviewed, all while seated at a desk in an office or classroom anywhere.

    The use of highly effective training simulators is so important that this technology should not be ignored, and must be put into practice if this police Chief and Board are to truly be as “progressive” as they purport to be; and if Albemarle is to be considered among the sophisticated. We need to let the landfill rest in peace, and utilize these training opportunities as a much more efficient and cost effective alternative.

    Save Rural Albemarle!

  21. There are already plenty of firing ranges in neighboring counties. Do the Albemarle County police actually need automatic weapons to patrol rural Albemarle County?

  22. Alternatively, could we just build the Albemarle County Police firing range underground, under the County Office Building?

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