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Stafford delays Crucible ruling

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Concerns over loud gunfire, explosions and a driving course could be the biggest hurdles facing an anti-terrorism training facility that hopes to expand in western Stafford County. 

Crucible, a 13-year-old business off U.S. 17, is asking the county for a conditional use permit so that it can add to its campus, which already includes five buildings and five firing ranges.

No decision was made at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting, and Chairman Mike Rhodes said perhaps a compromise could be reached over the next month that could mitigate both current noise concerns and any new ones.

It will come back to the commission June 26.

“We’re here to improve the site which we think will better the community around us,” said Charlie Payne, attorney for Crucible Properties II LLC. “We’re here to work with people but only in a reasonable manner.”

Plans call for a two-story administration building, more classroom space, an indoor shooting range, a scenario development training area and a driving course around the perimeter of the 88-acre site.

Crucible provides training on weapons, driving, personal defense and more to private companies and governmental agencies such as the departments of State, Justice and Defense.

But noise created by those activities upsets some neighbors—especially when it’s in the evenings.

Catherine Shalaby lives nearby but stopped making noise complaints years ago when she thought the county wouldn’t do anything about her concerns.

“During many, many spring SOL seasons, when principals beg for you to put your children in bed, I have put them to bed with sounds of semiautomatic weapons,” said Shalaby, who has two children.

Cindy Patton said she hears noise up until the 10 p.m. cutoff time, and asked that sound barriers be constructed around the entire property. And an attorney for the bordering Westlake subdivision, which will see its first homes on the market in about two years, took issue with the way a noise study was conducted, saying it didn’t take into account lower recommended levels for residential areas.

Stafford residents were concerned in 2004 when Crucible hoped to develop a 198-acre tract of agricultural land off Mount Olive Road. The controversial plan reached the Virginia Supreme Court in 2009 when the company thought the school would be an allowable use, but meanwhile the county had changed its zoning laws to require a public hearing. Crucible had spent about $1 million so far on the project but is no longer pursuing it.

Today, Crucible remains a legal nonconforming use to the light industrial zoning district, but must get a permit from the county for any changes, and to come into conformity.

Payne, the attorney for Crucible, said the company has 22 full-time employees and up to 100 part-time employees, depending on current training and missions. The improvements could increase the number of employees by 117, 59 of which would be in Stafford. Business revenue and taxes to the county would also increase, he said.

County staff recommend an 8-foot-tall security fence around the entire property, periodic inspections, a connection to public water and a water supply for fire protection, as well as not allowing any more new shooting ranges.

Also Tuesday, the Planning Commission deferred a reclassification of Ferry Farm to June. The George Washington Foundation is asking to remove one of several layers of scrutiny involved in the reconstruction project—that of the county’s Architectural Review Board via lifting the historic resource overlay.

The commission will discuss the change on June 1, along with other possible changes to the recently approved heritage interpretation zoning district.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2013/05/22/stafford-delays-crucible-ruling/

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