Parkland County did not perform a risk assessment before approving a housing development downrange of the Spruce Grove Gun Club, say officials with the county.
The Spruce Grove Gun Club closed its doors on June 9, 2014 after its development permit expired.
When club officials tried to renew the application, six nearby residents appealed, citing concerns for their safety.
On Monday, residents from Poplar Ridge Estates pleaded their case before the Parkland County Subdivision Development Appeal Board.
They said they are afraid for their safety after two stray bullets were found in their neighbourhood, which is located about two kilometres away from the range.
According to documents from the Canadian Firearms Centre obtained by the residents, the homes lie within the range’s safety zone – an area where stray bullets can happen.
“Residents are afraid for their children and their grandchildren,” said Cheryl Ball, a longtime resident of the area, at the hearing on Monday.
No risk assessment conducted
Although the club predates the newer homes by two decades, residents who spoke to CBC News said they either didn’t know about the adjacent shooting range or assumed the county had made sure it was safe before approving the development permit.
But CBC News has learned the housing development was approved without assessing the risks.
“My understanding was that there wasn’t consideration given to the gun club “ said Paul Hanlan, the county’s manager for planning and development.
“The feeling, as I can tell from the file, was that this particular subdivision was far enough north of the gun range that it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Hanlon said the county relies on the Alberta Chief Firearms Officer to determine if the gun range is safe.
The Subdivision Development Appeal Board have until Aug. 11 to decide whether or not they will allow the club to reopen and continue to operate.
Club spokesman responds
“Quite frankly we’re flabbergasted that someone would approve the placement of a subdivision in that particular location,” said gun club spokesman Bill Newton.
Newton said the club is in full compliance with federal and provincial regulations, and has surpassed the expectations of the Alberta Chief Firearms Officer during inspections.
He added that the club has also gone above and beyond to make significant safety improvements, such as adding higher berms and creating a new protocol that does not allow anyone to shoot rifles unsupervised.
Independent analyst finds bullet hole
RCMP confirm they have found two bullets in the Poplar Ridge Estates area north of the gun club, but could not say if the shots originated from the gun range.
Independent ballistics expert Alan Roth identified two additional bullets while writing a report commissioned by one of the neighbourhood’s residents.
According to Roth’s report, all of the bullets found were shot from an area just south of the neighbourhood – but he could not confirm whether or not they came from the gun range itself.
Roth also wrote a report for Beaver County in 2011 after a housing development was proposed two kilometres from the Sherwood Park Fish and Game Association Gun Range.
In it, he wrote “the likelihood of a projectile leaving the confines of the Sherwood Park Fish and Game shooting range and landing on your property is low. The likelihood that such a projectile would cause damage or injury is even lower, but it is not ‘zero.’”
Beaver County council judged the possibility of stray bullets was still too great to allow homes to be built there.