With shooting range in doubt, Lewis aims for campground, drive-in at Town of Batavia location
While not giving up on the Town of Batavia location completely, Brandon Lewis, owner of The Firing Pin in Bergen, figures he’s fighting a losing battle as far as developing an outdoor shooting range at the 22-acre parcel he owns at 3269 Harloff Road.
Acknowledging restrictions that come with the necessary special use permit from the Town of Batavia Planning Board and solid opposition from homeowners in that area, Lewis said he is changing up his game plan for the property.
“We’re going to move forward with some of our other business ventures as it does look less and less likely every day (that a shooting range will become a reality there) just because of the requirements set forth by the town,” Lewis said on Monday afternoon.
“(The revised plan) would include some of the other ideas I had, maybe not as full bore as I wanted to. I do like the property and I would like to keep it.”
Lewis, a Brockport resident who grew up in Genesee County, introduced his idea to place a shooting range/training facility, modest drive-in movie theater and small campground in March to the Genesee County Planning Board.
Since then, he has appeared before the town planning board on a few occasions but the proposal has been stuck in the mud for several reasons: planners’ justifiable request for specific details of Lewis’ plan; Lewis’ questioning of the constraints of the special use permit and; most notably, Harloff Road area residents’ objections to the shooting range over, primarily, noise and safety concerns.
“It’s not so much the town, but I don’t want to run a business where every neighbor is pitting against me,” Lewis said. “That’s certainly not how my shop in Bergen is. I think the community quite likes us out there.”
He said he understands the planning board is “just trying to do their duty” but isn’t ready to invest several hundred thousand dollars in an unreceptive environment.
“I just think no matter what I do, the residents – the locals – are just going to be against it. My neighbor here, Chris (Mosier) at Area 51. He’s been there how many years? And they’re giving him trouble, too,” he said.
Lewis said he continues to look into how he can proceed with the campground and drive-in ventures.
“The camping was never intended to be a 200 or 300 spot campsite. It will be like 20 spots at the most, and will be like dry camping or boondocking, basically,” he said. “It’s just a spot to do it inexpensively. There won’t be sewer. A lot of people questioned that project, too. Once we unveil the full project of it, they’ll see that there’s nothing to be worried about.”
On the drive-in, he said it could become a major undertaking.
“If you want to show current release movies, just the projection equipment alone is like $200,000 or $300,000, if not more,” he said. “Again, I’m not going to spend a half a million dollars needed to do everything to put in a drive-in, and then in a few years the neighbors say, ‘No, we don’t want it anymore,’ and they pull the special use permit.”
Lewis said he hasn’t contacted the planning board to have his referral placed on an agenda yet.
“I’m just regrouping – working with some of my other friends who are small business owners and seeing what kind of collaborations we can do together. I’m just trying to get something going out here so we can use the property and keep improving it,” he said.
As far as the outdoor shooting range is concerned, Lewis said he believes there is “a definite need” and he’s exploring other locations.
“We showed that there was a need for an indoor range like we offer (in Bergen) and I think the same thing – what we could do with an outdoor range, we still want to do,” he said. “We’re looking at properties that are more suited or better for us. If we can find a spot that’s great, we’re going to move forward with it. If anyone has land that could hold a 1,000-yard range, have them call me at (585) 494-0333.”