A proposal is before the Planning Commission for a tactical training facility along with new zoning language that will allow such uses in agricultural and industrial zoning districts. The Commission is holding a public hearing on Sept. 20 at 7:15pm to discuss the change to the zoning language. In the name of economic development, this complex amendment is being fast-tracked through the process to pave the path for the Global Dynamics Security application. Fortunately the Global Dynamics Security applicant has asked for an extension to the Oct. 18th Planning Commission meeting. The specific application will not be considered at the Sept. 20th meeting.
Update: Residents showed up in droves protesting the zoning text amendment on September 20th. After residents had expressed their concern about the proposed change, the Planning Commission voted to recommend denial. On September 25th the Board of Supervisors voted to deny the zoning amendment. At this time, we believe there will be no further consideration of the Global Security Applicaiton or related changes to the ordinance.
About the Zoning Changes and Application:
Global Dynamic Security, Inc. (GDS) is proposing a tactical training facility to be located at the old General Shale brickyard in Somerset off of Route 20 and Route 655. The application lacks clarity and requests an expansive list of uses such as indoor and outdoor firing ranges, K-9 housing, dormitories, helicopter land pad, office complex, dining hall, pool of convenience vehicles for guests, outdoor obstacle courses, and a recreational center. The operating hours of the facility are not limited in any way and may include night training. The proposed zoning language places few limitations on tactical training facilities. It not only allows for the uses proposed in the Global Dynamic Security application but also allows for the use of armored vehicles, retail firearms sales and gunsmithing services, and special events open to the public including sporting events such as shooting cup matches and canine and law enforcement trials with local food vendors.
PEC has many questions which we hope the county will try to answer before moving hastily on the permit. The old General Shale property has partial industrial zoning (roughly 70 acres of the 296 acre site) but mostly agricultural zoning. Currently a tactical training facility is not allowed in either industrial or agricultural zoned areas. The zoning text amendment would allow tactical training facilities in both zoning categories through a Special Use Permit. A Special Use Permit provides a process for the County to place conditions on a particular use to protect citizens from impacts such as noise and lighting. However, it will be difficult for the Planning Commissioners to formulate conditions that will protect citizens from the impacts of a proposal of this magnitude, especially when the proposal itself is so vague and unclear.
The County staff report recommends approval of both the zoning amendment and the Global Dynamic Security application. PEC staff disagrees with this recommendation due to lack of clarity in the application and outstanding concerns about public health, safety, and welfare.
Public Hearing Information:
The Planning Commission will be hearing public comments on both the zoning text amendment and the Special Use Permit for Global Dynamic Security on Thursday September 20 at 7:15 p.m. The location of the hearings has recently been moved to the Orange County High School auditorium, 201 Selma Rd., in expectation of an overflow crowd. We ask that you attend this public hearing and express your concerns about this proposal.
Below are questions that the Planning Commission should address before moving forward with the text amendment or the Special Use Permit.
- Does the County want to allow this use throughout both industrial and agricultural zoning districts? The county should first carefully consider the proposed zoning text amendment and the large amount land currently zoned agricultural (approximately 88%) that could be affected.
- What are the potential conflicts with other uses in these areas? A general description of the project includes training of special forces, police, emergency medical services, fire, combat medics, and the like. The use will also allow for firearms training, a kennel, and nighttime training activities that may conflict with both rural quality of life and other rural economic activities.
- What is the nature and limits of night time activities? There will be a use of firearms outdoors, not limited to daylight hours, which could result in significant noise and lighting impacts on nearby residents.
- How many people will Global Dynamic Security train at the site? At this time, the application mentions nothing about the total number of trainees allowed on the site at any given time. the facilities include 9,000 sq ft of campus housing with 102 bathrooms.
- Who is Global Dynamic Security training on the site? The application suggests military and other governmental responders but the website appears to offer security detail and language training for foreign nationals.
- What could be developed there instead? A portion of the property is zoned general industrial (I-2). In the I-2 district, land may be used for: (1) automobile sales, repair, storage or service (2) building materials sales, plumbing and electrical sales and service, lumberyard, or equipment and machinery sales and service (3) manufacturing or processing not involving flammable or explosive materials (4) signs in accordance with county regulations (5) utility, fire, or rescue station, or maintenance facility (6) warehouse, wholesale business or freight terminal. Citizens should be aware that even if this use is denied, the underlying zoning remains, meaning the property could face a high intensity use on the 70 acres zoned industrial at some point in the future.