RICHBURG -- An opponent of what could be the first sporting clay facility in Chester County hopes to derail the project in court.
But one of the men behind the DeerRun Sporting Clay Club said he's done nothing wrong and plans to continue building the shotgun range in the Richburg area.
The challenge to the club comes from Bill Hunter, a neighbor who has lived on nearby Hunter Road since 1970. Hunter filed an appeal with the Chester County Clerk of Court in April, challenging a March decision by the county's Zoning Board of Appeals that allowed Dean Brady and Rog Rodgers to begin building the facility.
Chester County attorney Joanie Winters said the earliest the case could go to court would be July.
Hunter argues the zoning board shouldn't have granted permission to Brady and Rodgers because neither owned the property when they applied for permission to establish a shooting range there. He hopes a judge will throw out the zoning board's decision, forcing the men to reapply.
Brady has since purchased the land, but Hunter said that doesn't matter.
"It's like writing a check at a bank," Hunter said. "If you ain't got no money in the bank, you shouldn't write the check. And he didn't own the property, so he shouldn't have signed that he did."
Brady counters that he followed all the county's guidelines.
"If there is a problem," he said, "it's between Mr. Hunter and Chester County, not between Mr. Hunter and us."
Brady already has started building the facility, which he expects to open around August.
Hunter said he doesn't want the range in his community. He fears the noise and traffic the range could bring. Other neighbors raised similar concerns at a recent zoning board meeting.
"I don't want all that traffic on Hunter Road," Hunter said. "The road is not made for all that traffic. And I don't want to have to sit on my sun deck on the back of my house and hear all about that shooting going on."
Brady said the range won't be open every day and, when it is open, the facility shouldn't generate logjam traffic. Noise won't be a problem either, he said, because the shooting will be more than 2,000 feet from any home.
"We're so far away," he said, "it won't be a bang, bang ... it'll be a pop, pop."
Chester County Planning Director Mack Paul said planning officials knew Brady didn't own the land when he and Rodgers applied for the zoning adjustment, but they told the men how to fill out the application because of Brady's intent to purchase the site.
"We probably shouldn't have," Paul said of allowing Brady to sign as the owner. "But, I mean, that's just kind of normal what we did, and we've never run into that problem."
Zoning adjustments typically are done before land is sold, Paul said, because the purchaser doesn't want to get stuck with property that he or she can't use.
But Hunter's appeal and another case have forced the county to change its policies. Recently, Paul said, a man nearly duped the county into rezoning land so he could open a bar on Old York Road that he didn't own. The owner, who lives in New York, didn't plan on selling.
The man signed one name as the applicant, forged the signature of the property owner, paid the $150 application fee and sent a fake letter explaining the owner's position.
A zoning hearing was scheduled and the proper signage was posted, Paul said. But the scheme was undone when a relative of the real owner called him to ask what he was doing with the land.
The owner then called county officials, who tried to contact the applicant but couldn't reach him. The zoning office didn't refund the man's $150 application fee. Paul said his office didn't pursue a forgery case because he didn't know all the people involved or if the culprits had given their real names.
After the questions about the shooting range and the near-debacle with the bar, the zoning office now asks rezoning applicants who don't own the land in question to provide an agreement with the property owner's letterhead or a notarized statement from the landowner.
"They could still lie," Paul said. "If you're gonna be a crook, you're gonna be a crook, and it's kind of hard for me to stop all these things."