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"Arguably, the County will now be required to allow any such property owner to conduct commercial firearms training on an interim basis so long as a permit application is eventually submitted." -- Marco Gonzalez

By Miriam Raftery

December 23, 2015 (Alpine) –Attorney Marco Gonzalez has filed an appeal with County Supervisors on behalf of environmental groups and neighbors of Covert Canyon in Alpine. If the Planning Director's decision stands, he argues, it would set a precendent that could subject residents across vast areas of the County  to neighbors opening up similar commercial shooting ranges.

The appeal contends that it was illegal for the Planning Director to issue an order reclassifying the zoning ordinance defintion of “law enforcement” to include military and law enforcement firearms training at Covert Canyon, a mountain meadow surrounded by Cleveland National Forest, without reveiw under the California Environmental Quality (CEQA) Act. 

That change could apply too many properties across the County—including lands zoned rural residential limited agricultural and general rural, he warns.

Gonzalez argues that before any such decision is made, “…the County must consider the full scope of impacts that would occur throughout the County if law enforcement and military firearms training are allowed on each and every parcel of land where such permission might reasonably be sought.  Arguably, the County will now be required to allow any such property owner to conduct commercial firearms training on an interim basis so long as a permit application is eventually submitted.”

The appeal cites past violations including grading of wetland ponds without a permit and encroaching onto forest lands with a shooting range berm.  Halcon has said he thought the berm was on his property until a survey showed otherwise.   The appeal claims restoration has not been adequate. It cites documentation of alleged illegal commercial operations for years at the site and criticizes the county for inadequate enforcement, though Halcon claims he has allowed large groups to shoot free or for “donations.”

The appeal argues that outdoor shooting ranges have been found to cause impacts to land use, wildlife and biological resources. Specifically, there can be negative impacts on wildlife habitat, water and air quality, aesthetics, archeological resources, and humans due to noise, traffic, increased wildfire danger and accidental bullet deflection.

The appeal asks Supervisors to immediately rescind the Planning Director’s order until a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) determination is made.  It was filed on behalf of neighbors Clark and Robin Williams as well as Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Save Our Forests and Ranchlands, and  Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation.

It is unclear whether Supervisors will hear the appeal, as administrative decisions are customarily binding.   But Gonzalez' appeal makes clear that the County is likely to face legal action if it does not take action.

Gonzalez concludes that the director's approval of a stipulated administraiton enforcement order allowing Covert Canyon to conduct commercial shooting operations without a major use permit that would have required CEQA review "amounts to illegal piecemealing."  He concludes, "...the failure to conduct CEQA prior to its issuance is an abuse of discretion, a failure to proceed in a manner required by law, and an open invitation to litigation."

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That map is as clear as mud.

It is unfortunate that San Diego county has had open shooting areas closed time and time again. There used to be many that were not just easy to access but nice to shoot at. They have ALL been closed. The main issue was trash. Not by the casual shooter but by the idiots that won't pay to take their trash to the dump. Many a cleanup has been scheduled and areas cleaned by volunteers to STILL have them closed. If there is even the slightest warm period it is claimed to be "Fire season" and shooting is off limits. I have no problem with this range. What I do have a problem with is the rampant gun control minority that wishes to deny law abiding citizens the right to keep and bear arms and their ability to take family and friends to teach gun safety in BLM zoned legal shooting areas.

San Diego County Shooting Areas

Here's the link to the areas where shooting is permitted in San Diego County: As you can see, there are large areas of southeastern San Diego County were shooting is permitted. Here is the link to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recreational shooting website: Once again, there are huge areas of public land where shooting is permitted. Mr. Gonzales and Williams are putting up a red herring. It's time to move on and let Covert Canyon turn a profit for its owner.

reply to hano

Thanks for the links. Facts are stubborn things.