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Stafford planners oppose Crucible expansion

The Crucible is regrouping after the Stafford County Planning Commission recommended denial of the anti-terrorism training facility’s plans for expansion.

The Crucible’s John Garman was surprised that the commission on Wednesday evening opposed the conditional-use permit that would allow the Hartwood-area company to add buildings and a driving track, but put limits on activities and times of training.

“We’ve always been good neighbors, and we’re interested in being more compliant,” said Garman this week.

Garman, who’s in charge of the Crucible’s day-to-day operations, here and overseas, has worked for months with nearby property owners to gain support.

The commission voted to recommend denial of the conditional-use permit on a 4–1 vote. Chairman Mike Rhodes cast the dissenting vote, and Commissioner Bob Gibbons was absent. The George Washington seat on the commission is currently vacant.

The commission makes a recommendation, but the Board of Supervisors has the final say.

The Crucible’s 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.

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

Today the Crucible property off Richards Ferry Road south of U.S. 17 remains a legal nonconforming use in the light industrial zoning district there. It must get a permit from the county for any changes.

The project has been discussed at the Planning Commission level for several months, and a public hearing was held in May.

Crucible officials have also met with Hartwood residents and with representatives from the Westlake subdivision. New homes are planned to be built near one edge of Crucible’s property.

But commission member Darrell English said he’s still worried about noise generated by training after dark.

“I want to support this. They’ve come a long way in mitigating concerns,” English said. However, he moved to recommend denial. “It’s unreasonable for people to be hearing gunshots at 9:30, 10 o’clock at night.”

Garman said contracts require a certain number of training hours after dark. At this point, nighttime training is limited to no more than eight to 10 nights per month, and they try to consolidate that training during fewer evenings, rather than having gunfire more frequently.

Rhodes said he supports limitations on activities at the Crucible.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975