Dave Martin wants his business to be a good neighbor.
It can be hard to catch a break, though, when gunfire is involved.
That's why his shooting range drew complaints last year from neighbors near its present location and, now, is drawing complaints from neighbors near where the city wants him to move.
Carolyn Pimsler, who lives in an idyllic setting in southeast Oklahoma City, has nothing against guns.
She just wants Martin to keep his distance.
On one hand, it could be seen as another case of NIMBY — “not in my backyard.”
On the other, Pimsler and her neighbors have compiled — literally — a box load of reasons for why they think Martin's shooting range belongs someplace besides public land near their homes.
Chief among them are the potential for contamination from lead shot and the nearly $117,000 it's costing the city to renegotiate Martin's lease.
So Oklahoma City Council member Pete White is facing complaints about the range for the second time since it opened a year ago on 260 acres along SE 149 east of Air Depot Boulevard.
A proposal to relocate the range to 160 acres on SE 119 — about a mile from Pimsler's neighborhood — is on hold while White waits for Tinker Air Force Base to respond to a plan for a potential site farther from Pimsler but closer to the approach to Tinker runways.
“If I can make it better and make people believe it's better, I'm going to do it,” White said.
White leads the Water Utilities Trust, which oversees the West Elm Creek Reservation, public land west of Lake Stanley Draper that's scheduled to one day be a reservoir.
Quail Ridge Sporting Clays leased reservation land and opened last February.
Martin offers several shotgun sports, including trap shooting, that simulate bird hunting.
Sporting clays re-creates a variety of hunting situations over a course laid out in a field; moving from station to station often is compared to golf.
Quail Ridge hosts a Society of Petroleum Engineers league and hosted the 2012 State Sporting Clays Championship.
Its competitive advantage is its location — closer to downtown than ranges in El Reno, Guthrie, Arcadia and Shawnee.
White acknowledges the process that led to allowing Quail Ridge to open on SE 149 was flawed.
An “antiquated” ordinance didn't require enough notice to neighbors, the course faced the wrong direction, and with the traffic volume on SE 149, options were few, he said.
Within weeks, neighbors were complaining publicly about the noise.
Quail Ridge hosted a meeting; Martin offered to move.
The latest flap began when the Water Utilities Trust settled on a new site near the Meadowlakes neighborhood off SE 104 east of Sooner Road.
“Our concerns started as a NIMBY case, but … our objections have become much broader,” Pimsler, a medical doctor said. “I think we see a bigger picture and truly believe the city should strongly reconsider getting into this business at all.”
Opponents of the new location argue tons of lead will fall to the ground, where it could leach into surface and groundwater — not a good idea, they say, in a future drinking water reservoir.
Lead shot lying on the ground also could be consumed by waterfowl, poisoning the birds and making them easy pickings for predators, they say.
Eagles are particularly vulnerable to lead in the food chain, said veterinarian Roger Harlin, Pimsler's husband and a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians.
Opponents also have concluded the city's cost of $116,855 to renegotiate Martin's lease won't be recouped through rent payments for years, if ever.
Then there's noise.
Pimsler and Harlin have a deck overlooking a pond at their house.
Everyone expects they'll hear gunfire when they sit outside.
The question is: How loud is too loud?
The city contracted for a “noise impact” test and found barking dogs were louder than gunfire at a test site closest to Meadowlakes.
Still, the city is requiring Quail Ridge to take measures to mitigate noise through course design and installation of shooting stands.
For now, Martin is on a month-to-month lease on SE 149 and said the uncertainty “is costing money with some of the bigger shoots.”
He said he's also on the hook for cleaning up the lead at his present site.
Waiting and unhappy
White said he's awaiting a decision from Tinker as to “whether or not it would be feasible” to move the range to a spot farther south and east from Meadowlakes.
He said he's satisfied lead shot left on the ground can be cleaned up without endangering the water supply.
Recreational activities in West Elm Creek, including an off-road vehicle track and horseback riding, are not intended to be moneymakers for the city, he said.
And while he's “not a gun guy,” White said he's convinced shooting is a popular sport, and “Oklahoma City has the ability to accommodate it where a lot of other cities cannot.”
Ralph Monson, the public affairs officer at Tinker, said Friday that base officials were reviewing a land-use request from Oklahoma City officials.
After collecting 79 signatures opposing relocation that she feels were disregarded, Pimsler is unhappy with the whole process.
Then there's the prospect of gunfire over coffee in the morning.
“We felt bullied and have had to incur significant expenses to defend ourselves,” she said. “We're saying they're taking the quiet enjoyment of our property.”