Shooting range in crosshairs of development (Video)

Feb. 9, 2013 at 9:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 10, 2013 at 8:11 p.m.

For decades, McCrary family members have walked from their door to see hundreds of acres of scrubland, a few head of cattle and nothing else.

Now, that looming emptiness is about to be filled.

Between Mallette Drive and U.S. Highway 87, development has slowly crept up on the McCrary's shooting range. There was the Woodway subdivision and Terra Vista, a new elementary school on Mallette Drive and a promise of a westward extension of Ball Airport Road.

As recently as October, the city council annexed 9.3 acres off the planned Ball Airport Road extension.

Denise McCrary Wood and her husband, Lt. Col. Bryan Wood, inherited Victoria Gun and Archery Club when Gary McCrary died last year.

Now, a Houston developer wants the range to close so the property backing up to it can be cleared for homes, Bryan Wood said.

Real estate agent Lee Swearingen, who represents the developer, whom he would not name, said the project would be the city's most significant housing developments in decades.

The property's owner, Sam Williams, and the developer have already signed a contract, Swearingen said.

"Development is fast encroaching on that little area - from both directions," he said. "The community needs gun ranges, but it needs them on bigger properties where they're not infringing on other property owners."

Swearingen said that area is the only direction Victoria can grow residentially.

On the 300 acres, he estimates three or four homes would be built per acre. If that plan is realized, Victoria would have more than 900 new homes.

"If we're going to attract jobs, we'll have to have more new housing," Swearingen said. "We have a need for more housing and affordable housing. ... We can't meet our housing demand without something significant."

He said the average home prices in Victoria are exceeding what people can afford. This development would address that problem.

Wood said homes would be too close to the range not only because of the ballistics but because of the sound.

"I don't make decisions based upon" people who want to make money, Wood said. "I make decisions based upon what's best for the community."

Victoria's Development Coordinator Monica Leal said the city has not yet received a plan for the subdivision.

The club owners said relocating the business is an option.

"If we wanted to, we could go into some form of negotiation with the landowner," Wood said. "At this time, we really don't have any interest in doing that."

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz said the shooting range property is just outside the northwest city boundary. Even if it were in city limits, the city has no ordinance regulating gun ranges.

Although the range has no legal obligation to close, Swearingen said it could be a liability if it stays open next to a residential area.

"Noise is an issue, but the major issue is the concern about stray bullets," he said. "There's no question that bullets cross the creek onto his (Williams') property."

David Bosart, who owns an all-terrain vehicle shop on Mallette Drive, across from Williams' property from the range, said the shooting range resolved issues he had with stray bullets in the past.

Wood said the range owners increased the height and breadth of the berm around the range to 17 and 25 feet and restricted business hours and ammunition to become better neighbors.

Bosart called the possible closure a "no-brainer" but said he respected Wood's right to have a business.

Victoria Economic Development Corp. President Dale Fowler said housing in Victoria is insufficient.

"Available housing can be a limiting factor for a community's growth," he said. "Victoria is at a situation that we could use additional midrange housing."

During talks with companies that are looking to move to Victoria, housing usually comes up, Fowler said.

"If someone is going to locate in our community and bring in and hire a workforce, they'll need a place for them to live," he said. "We're hoping that we do the things necessary as a community to attract jobs that can afford to buy a home, but we can only do that if there's homes available for purchase."

Little by little, residents, businesses and land outside city limits are becoming annexed, he said.

"Some communities that are very limited on real estate grow up," Fowler said. "This region of Texas is not real accustomed to living in high-rise apartments. Even so, it's expensive to do that compared to being able to sprawl out and buy land."

Wood said he and his wife have no intention of shutting down the 25-year-old shooting club.

However, he said, they would listen to what city and county leaders prefer when it comes time to make a decision.

"To simply close down the range so that someone can make money for the near- to mid-term future ... we are a vested part of the community, and our decision is in consideration of the community's long-term benefit," he said.



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