Marcos Breton

Connecting the dots on issues, people and news in the Sacramento region

Marcos Breton: New shooting range startles neighbors in Rancho Cordova

08/31/2014 12:00 AM

10/08/2014 12:17 PM

Less than 1,000 feet from a high school garden where Waldorf School kids learn about nature and severely disabled kids get some fresh air, a huge indoor shooting range is under construction and set to open soon.

The trouble is, no one from the George Washington Carver School of Arts and Science had any idea that they would be soon be neighbors with a place where weapons are transported, sold and discharged. The same goes for residents of the Quail Pointe Apartments, just a few paces from where the Sacramento Gun Club will be located at 3443 Routier Road in Rancho Cordova.

Ditto for Neil Orchard Senior Citizens Center, which is right across the street. Mayhew Community Baptist Church is nearby and adjacent to the senior center is Lincoln Village Park, where on Friday kindergarten kids laughed and splashed in a swimming pool on a hot summer afternoon.

One could argue – and some residents already have – that a shooting range should not be located so close to a school. For some, this is particularly true in the wake of the November 2012 mass killings of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. According to Politifact.com, there have been 10 similar mass shootings at American schools in less than two years since then.

“After Sandy Hook, it was traumatic for me to come to work,” said Allegra Alessandri, principal at Carver High. “It was emotionally traumatic, and it’s hard not to have a conversation about that when we are thinking of putting an active shooting range next to a school.”

The presence of a kiddie pool nearby also stokes emotions, given how recently a 9-year-old girl in a ponytail and pink shorts accidentally killed a shooting instructor in Las Vegas when she lost control of the Uzi he was showing her how to use.

“I feel betrayed,” said Morjana Coffman, a resident of Quail Pointe apartments, when asked about the shooting range she knew nothing about going up next door.

At the very least, someone from the city of Rancho Cordova could have given the school, the church, the senior center, the apartment complex and the park a heads-up of what was going on.

But it didn’t happen, even though the Sacramento Gun Club has been touting its coming attraction – a 40,000-square-foot space with 34 lanes, including 50-yard rifle lanes – on Facebook and Twitter for months.

On Tuesday, some residents are going to express their concerns to the Rancho Cordova City Council, but they know there is not much they can do.

It’s all perfectly legal.

The California Penal Code allows for the shooting range to be so near the school because it will be on private property. Under the law, gun club members will be required to show up at the club with unloaded and locked weapons. The city already had zoned the building where the gun club is to be located as commercial, so renovation of the building was procedural.

Paul Junker, planning director for Rancho Cordova, called it “an oddity of zoning.”

He said the owners of the building and gun club – Fite Development Company – are longtime Rancho Cordova corporate citizens with a sterling reputation. Junker said they are transforming a building that had been vacant for at least six years by investing $6 million in its renovation.

Having a large business generating sales taxes and investment in a spot once vacant in Rancho Cordova is clearly the attraction for city planners.

But just because something is legal, does that make it right?

Less than two weeks ago, Coffman, the Quail Pointe resident, noticed activity within the vacant buildings and investigated. She found construction workers knocking down walls and moving earth on a site that had been so dormant, trees on the property were dead because they hadn’t been watered for years.

“My building faces the property, but I’m disabled so I had to drive over there,” Coffman said. “They tore out the windows of the office buildings and were putting up concrete walls. I thought, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.’

“Then on Aug. 19, I saw a commercial vehicle parked out front with the monogram Bullet Guard . I felt the hairs on my neck stand up.”

That’s when Coffman began making calls. “Fite owns many vacant warehouses in Rancho Cordova. Why are those sites not worthy but this one was?” she asked.

Representatives of Fite could not be reached for comment. Junker said he understands the concerns of residents but he believes the gun club will be run responsibly.

“We all bring different emotions to the gun issue,” Junker said. “ But sometimes our emotions overrule facts.”

Standing in front of where the gun club will be located, you can easily see the window of the Carver drama club, library and computer and science labs.

On the school grounds closest to the gun club is a community garden where kids grow their own vegetables and have their own owl. There is also a special day class for emotionally disturbed kids and a class run by the county for kids who are severely handicapped.

“My parent body is pretty concerned,” Alessandri said. “And will be using public comments at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to ask questions.”

Coffman said she has no expectations of stopping the gun club. “Not after all the money they’ve spent on remodeling,” she said. “But this wasn’t handled properly, and we want to let our voices reverberate I’m not just going to lay down and let you run a tank over me.”

About This Blog

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton, and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a native of Northern California and the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Contact Marcos Breton at mbreton@sacbee.com or 916-321-1096.
Twitter: @MarcosBreton
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