Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Housing needs intersect business rights

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 16, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:16 p.m.

Outside of Victoria, off of U.S. Highway 87, sits the Victoria Gun and Archery Club. It is owned by Denise McCrary Wood and her husband, Lt. Col. Bryan Wood, who inherited it when Gary McCrary died last year. A Houston developer has bought the land behind the gun range and wants to clear it to make houses, but first they want the gun range to close to ensure the area would be safe from stray bullets.

As evidenced by our original story and the online comments, this is a situation where passions flare. Some see the question of safety as a legitimate one. Others see a big-city developer moving in and throwing their weight around to make a profit.

In this situation, there are many questions that need to be answered, and there is not enough information available yet to know what is the best course, but there are some things we do know. We know the gun club has been in its current location for years as the neighborhoods and businesses grew around it. As these new neighbors moved in, the range has taken several steps to help ensure stray bullets do not end up on others' property. The range raised the berms, set rules on the type of ammunition allowed and limited hours of operation. The range has clearly made a commitment to be a good neighbor, and there is no question it has the right to continue where it is.

It is also undeniable that Victoria has a housing shortage. As our economy improves, our housing market is not keeping up with the demand. According to the Swearingen Report for 2012, property sales were up more than 5 percent from 2011. At the same time, the number of active listings and the inventory at the end of December were down about 5 percent from the previous year. If this trend continues, housing in Victoria will become more and more difficult to find. Such a limited market could have a negative effect on the city's economy by preventing businesses from coming here from a lack of housing for workers. The Victoria area needs more homes.

The Houston developer wants to build about 900 homes on the land near the gun range. This could be a huge step in the right direction when it comes to solving Victoria's housing shortage.

The owners of the shooting range have said they are open to negotiations with the developer, and we encourage both sides to examine this situation carefully. We agree that future homeowners would feel safer if they were not downrange of the shooting club, but we also know gun owners need a place to practice and the Victoria Gun and Archery Club has the right to stay where they are. We encourage both sides to come together and discuss options openly and respectfully. We are confident there is a mutually beneficial compromise available, whether that means taking further steps to keep bullets from going outside the range or even trading property so the range can move to a safer location.

When the rights of private businesses intersect with the need for more housing, a delicate balance must be struck to address both issues. Whatever the solution, we hope to see both companies adjust and prosper.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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