Indoor shooting range tapped for Harmar

A Marietta businessman says he welcomes input from the community as he pursues plans to add an indoor shooting range on his property in the 200 block of Pearl Street, an idea that has a petition against it circulating around the Harmar neighborhood.

“People can come in and talk to me. I welcome their input,” said Charles “Chip” Ditchendorf, owner of the West Side Safe and Gun shop at 205 Pearl St.

The range would be enclosed within a 35-by-65-foot two-story addition to the shop that’s located in a fenced-in area across the street from the city’s Flanders Field playground. The shooting range would be on the building’s ground floor surrounded by windowless thick concrete walls, but with plenty of ventilation, he said.

Ditchendorf said he’s been planning to expand the safe and gun shop due to a lack of space, and decided to add the indoor range to help promote firearms safety and provide a location for area law enforcement officers to practice and maintain their firearms certifications.

“The range is designed to be completely contained, safe, soundproofed and lead-free,” he said. “And it would be used for training and education purposes. People are often encouraged to buy a firearm, but they’ve never even handled one.”

He said the indoor range would allow those considering the purchase of a gun to learn safe use of the firearm before they take it home.

In November Ditchendorf approached Marietta City Council’s planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee with his plans, seeking council support for the facility before continuing to pursue the project, which he expects to build within the next five years at a cost of around $500,000.

A public hearing on the proposal was held in the Harmar district last month. Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, who chairs the planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee, said around 20 people attended, including some council members.

“Marietta Police Sgt. Rod Hupp spoke in support of it, and there were about four other people who spoke against it,” Kalter said, adding that there were also several who spoke in favor of the range.

Kalter said noise generated by the shooting range was a major concern.

“I think the biggest issue is whether he can confine the noise within the building,” he said. “If he can do that I think people would have few problems with it. And he’s willing to change the building design to accommodate neighborhood concerns.”

But some aren’t sold on the idea, including next-door neighbor Andrea Lisovich and her boyfriend, Gary Johnson, who live in a house on Harmar Street, adjacent to Ditchendorf’s property.

“We don’t want a shooting range here,” Lisovich said. “How is this benefiting our neighborhood? And we have teens and young children who live in this neighborhood.”

Johnson said he would also be concerned.

“It would be an indoor range, but there will have to be some sort of ventilation area, and that will allow noise,” he said. “I’ve never seen a shooting range that didn’t generate noise.”

Lisovich said Ditchendorf himself admitted he could not guarantee there would be no noise from the facility during the public meeting held last month.

Both Johnson and Lisovich said they were not against firearms.

“I like to shoot, too, but I do it out in the country where it belongs, not in the city,” Johnson said.

The couple has circulated a petition throughout the neighborhood against an indoor shooting range at 205 Pearl St., and Johnson said at least 100 people have signed the document.

Susan Dearth, who lives on the corner of Pearl and Fearing streets near the proposed shooting range, said she also worries about the project.

“I don’t know a lot of details about it, but I would be concerned about any possible toxic fumes that might come out through the building’s ventilation area,” she said. “And if a shooting range is built it will increase traffic in this neighborhood. We already have a lot of traffic here for ball games on weekends.”

Dearth noted many children play on the Flanders Field playground every day and she’s concerned that people could have loaded firearms outside the shooting range facility.

“I’m not totally against this, although there are a few people who don’t want it here at all,” she said. “My main concern would be for the safety of our community. I just want it to be safe.”

Dearth added that two doors down from her home is Miss Peggy’s Daycare Center where young children often play in the yard throughout the day.

“I want those little kids to be able to play outside and be safe,” she said.

Jodie Bonnette, general manager for Moran Construction, Inc. on Virginia Street, also next door to Ditchendorf’s business, said she and owner Tom Moran support the shooting range effort.

“We’re completely supportive of Chip and his business,” she said. “He has worked hard to build his safe and gun business here and he’s a very conscientious business owner.”

Bonnette said people are naturally somewhat fearful when they don’t understand a proposed project like the indoor range.

She said people should talk to Ditchendorf and become more educated about the details of the project.

“And this area should not lose sight of the fact that we and Chip have both worked to improve the Flanders Field playground for the neighborhood,” she said. “Chip has children himself, so he’s not going to put other kids at risk with this shooting range.”

Legislation granting Ditchendorf permission to build the shooting range was introduced to Marietta City Council at the end of the year, but the measure was tabled and then died because no action was taken before Jan. 1 when the newly-elected council members took office.

“It will have to be re-introduced and we’ll take it through three full readings,” Kalter said, noting that the public is welcome to comment on the proposed legislation during those city council sessions or during meetings of the planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee.