Glades County has asked the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to decide whether they can regulate the Hollywood Tactical Gun Club that is operating in Lakeport.
At the Aug. 9 county commission meeting, County Manager Paul Carlisle said they want to make sure that they don’t put any of the commissioners in jeopardy, aka sued, should they enforce regulations that are contrary to Florida law.
He told commissioners that staff has gotten several comments about the shooting range located on SR 721. He wants the attorney general to tell the county if they are allowed to regulate the gun club.
“We want to make sure that everyone’s rights are protected,” he explained. “I’m not saying we’re going to shut them down.”
County Attorney Richard Pringle said the county just wants clarification about their zoning laws and what, if any, regulations they can impose on the facility.
“Some language in the state law seems to show our zoning regulations are still in effect,” he added.
The county sent a letter with five questions to find out what they can do.
Commissioner Donna Storter-Long said she just wanted to be sure the facility complies with the county regulations, “Our goal is not to shut them down.”
Commissioner Storter-Long said she has received complaints from residents and also worries about the Second Amendment rights of citizens.
The facility first generated complaints last year. The Community Development Office has not pursued this as a code violation because of state laws that have preempted local regulation of guns and ammunition. The state is the governing body over these issues. There are prohibitions against local governments and employees and elected officials can face penalties if they attempt to impose regulations in this area.
Representatives of the gun range appeared before the commission to describe the facility and emphasize the safety measures they have taken. They reported the range is fully insured by the National Rifle Association. They noted it is fully staffed with range instructors and is only open three days per week, Friday through Sunday. They also have a 35-foot high earthen berm on the site. They shoot from 1,000 yards and the bullets drop before they reach the berm.
Richard Camillo said there is a membership fee for the club. He said he is used by law enforcement officers, and branches of the military, like the Coast Guard. Federal law enforcement like Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officers, ATF, have also used the range.
Commissioner Paul Beck asked about ricochets and the dangers they pose. Mr. Camillo said there are no errant bullets leaving the property.
“Every round stops within that property. The berm is extra insurance.”
They also have an enclosed area for pistol target practice. Many of the users of the property are sharp shooters. There was one exercise where law enforcement officers shot from a hovering helicopter above the facility. Commissioners agreed to visit the facility at the personal invitation of the owners. Glades County continued to complain about South Florida Water Management’s purchase of agriculture property to store water for coastal areas. Commissioner Beck said he has heard the district plans to purchase “tens of thousands of acres.” He complained this will only reduce the county tax base, cost jobs, and make it tougher on local taxpayers.
Beck said his solution is a $1 tax for every property owner in South Florida to offset the loss in land that could be developed in Glades County. He said the district needs to provide fair compensation to his constituents.
“We don’t hire you, we can’t fire you, we the people have zero control,” he said.
Mr. Carlisle said he encourages the district to buy land in the northern part of the watershed instead of Glades County.
Libby Maxwell with the Okeechobee Service Center of SFWMD, said they have tried to prioritize the use of land the state already owns to lessen the impact on local governments. She encouraged Glades County to speak out to protect their interests.
“There are a lot of loud voices coming from other places and we need to have your voices heard,” she added.
In other actions:
• The board also held a moment of silence to remember Glades County Deputy Sheriff James Naso who died in a motorcycle accident.
• The board also celebrated the 72nd birthday of Smokey Bear with members of the Florida Forest Service who brought them a message for fire safety.
• The board welcomes new code compliance officer Candy Brown. Her position will be part time until October 1 when it becomes full time in the new fiscal year budget.
• Commissioners approved a contract with Lynch Paving for the Harney Pond boat ramp road for $159,769.
• Commissioners learned Zika is not a big threat to Glades County. Health Department Director Dr. Joseph Pepe said the state has made available $25,000 for additional mosquito spraying in Glades County.