In a unanimous vote Aug. 18, the Oldham County Board of Adjustments and Appeals denied a conditional use permit for Heritage Gun Club, the proposed commercial clay shooting range and private club located at 1507 Rebel Ridge Road in Westport.
Dozens of residents and homeowners, many who live near the 307-acre parcel, crammed into the fiscal court meeting room wearing red clothing in a show of solidarity, also waving signs with the slogans “No Gun Range” and “Keep Oldham County Quietly Amazing.”
With the applicant testifying that road traffic on Rebel Ridge Road would increase from its current rate of 15 vehicles per hour to projected 80 per hour, combined with the narrow width of not only Rebel Ridge but Eighteenmile Creek Road and Bohannon Lane, several board members cited safety concerns as one reason for denial.
The board also received 139 letters of opposition going into the hearing. An online petition created by area homeowner Hannah Finch generated more than 1,600 signatures.
Given the scope of pushback, the board voted to extend presentations by the applicant and opposition from 20 minutes to one hour each, along with an added rebuttal time of 15 minutes for both.
HGC property owner Jacob Dietrich, a La Grange native, led the applicant presentation with an appeal to his hometown roots. He argued that many gathered in opposition “vilified” him since the outset.
Dietrich called the club, which also includes a timber-frame event venue lodge in its design, a desirable entertainment option for the community and a strong tourism draw. In addition the range, it would serve as a wedding event space and concert venue.
“I’m not an outsider, I’m an overeducated redneck,” said Dietrich, a Fulbright Scholar who served as an American diplomat. “I was born and raised in La Grange and went to Immaculate Conception [Church]. Heritage Gun Club is about bettering our home…I’m not some greedy, ruthless businessman trying to steal your land. I’m a devoted Christian [who asks you] to cast out the lies, deceit and gossip about this [project]..”
La Grange resident Carey Duncan joined several others in endorsing the HGC, asking those gathered to give it a chance.
“I’ve been a shooting enthusiast for about 50 years,” he said. “I just wish people would consider the fact that it’s not going to be this noise pollution they think it will be. It’s not going to be some drunk guy on the back of somebody’s porch shooting a .357. It’s well-planned. The shooting ranges I’ve been to compared to this one. This is the best you can ever get and we will lose a heck of an opportunity if you vote against this.”
On the topic of noise, Dietrich said HGC would employ a combination of concrete fence systems and several large tree species, among them Spruce and Cypress, to create a sound barrier around shooting platforms. The resulting decibel level, “at its highest,” he claimed, would be around 63, which mirrors “human conversation.”
Louisville-based environmental attorney Randal Strobo, one of two lawyers representing the opposition, questioned Dietrich about his acoustic data later in the hearing.
Strobo first confirmed with Oldham County Planning Director Jim Urban that the board received the applicant’s noise study with accompanying decibel levels during the hearing.
He then confirmed with Dietrich that the acoustic study was conducted internally.
“This is an internal study,” Dietrich said. “We are very confident in our results…”
“You didn’t hire a consultant or an expert to do it for you?” Strobo asked.
“We did not,” Dietrich replied.
“Who specifically did the tests?” Strobo asked.
“I did the tests of the calibration,” Dietrich said.
Beyond noise and discussions about lead particulate reclamation and recycling, road concerns remained the predominant topic throughout the hearing.
Steve Doolin, who lives on Rebel Ridge Road near the planned HGC site, shared several first-person dashboard videos to demonstrate road narrowness and what he identified as eight “blind hills.”
County Engineer Jim Silliman said in his presentation to the board that Rebel Ridge Road has a 25 mph speed limit and measures approximately 16-feet wide for the majority of its length, but narrows to just 12.5 feet around the 2330 address. He also identified several curves on Bohannon that present some “sight distances issues.”
Dietrich later in the meeting offered to pay “up to $50,000” to mitigate some of those concerns.
When board chairman Ron Fonk asked what a $50,000 bond would cover for road mitigation in that area, the applicants listed targeted curve widening, potential vegetation removal, signage improvements and edge-line striping.
Board member Charles Ward said he wasn’t convinced road improvements would help the situation.
“I think even if you were to try and repair the road [with] whatever amount of money you put into it, I am concerned that would make not this desirable to the citizens,” he said. “No matter what you did….it’s a concern. The numbers quoted, the parties, the potential wedding events, potential concerts—there’s a lot more noise and activity than with just a gun range.”
Board member Gretchen Chitwood, who made the motion to deny, said even without the public pushback and what she called “contradicting data” on decibels and shot trajectory, she would not be comfortable approving the permit.
“In absence of all that, even if none of it existed, the road issue still does,” she said.
“I move [to deny] on the basis that this is not essential or especially desirable to the community.”
Chitwood was seconded by board member Charles Turner before the board voted for denial.