A south Littleton shooting range that has been the target of controversy over the past year is officially open for business, and may get even bigger. Despite dire predictions from neighbors over …
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A south Littleton shooting range that has been the target of controversy over the past year is officially open for business, and may get even bigger.
Despite dire predictions from neighbors over concerns about noise and parking issues, city officials say they have received no complaints about Triple J Armory's shooting range during its first full month of operation.
“I hope that stays the same,” said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman. “They're behaving so far. They should be able to operate within the guidelines. They put a lot of money into soundproofing, and as long as they continue to follow the rules, noise stays within an acceptable range and parking is managed, I have no issues with it.”
Neither City Manager Mark Relph nor Community Development Director Jennifer Henninger were aware of any citizen complaints against Triple J since the range's soft opening in early June. The range held a grand opening ceremony on June 29. Triple J's retail gun store at the location opened last year.
Triple J's shooting range may get even bigger, as the company is working on obtaining a permit to expand the number of lanes in the range from 11 to 20, city officials said. The permit application was filed just days before the enactment of a law limiting shooting ranges in Littleton that Brinkman said she had hoped would constrict the range's final size.
Triple J co-owner J.D. Murphree did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.
Triple J, a family-owned gun store that started in a strip mall near Broadway and County Line Road in 2012, drew controversy in 2018 when neighbors objected to plans to build a larger store and shooting range at 8152 Southpark Lane.
Residents of the nearby Highline Crossing cohousing community led the charge against the range, saying it was too close to homes and schools, citing safety fears after Triple J's old location was the target of two completed and one attempted smash-and-grab burglaries, as well as concerns about noise and parking.
The City of Littleton issued a stop-work order against the range last August after discovering Triple J began constructing the range without permits. City officials mandated a variety of safety and security measures before finally approving the range, saying the site's zoning left them powerless to flat-out deny permits.
The South Park Owners Association, which governs the business park Triple J is part of, filed suit against Triple J in 2018, alleging Triple J did not receive proper clearance to begin building the range. The parties ended up settling for an undisclosed amount.
Mother and son team Renata and Ron Lilischkes, who own a commercial building next door to the shooting range, filed suit against Triple J in January, alleging the business infringed on their parking. A judge denied an injunction against the range in April, saying the Lilischkes appeared to be motivated by opposition to the nature of the business, not parking concerns. The suit was not dismissed, however, and is currently scheduled for a four-day jury trial in December. The Lilischkes did not respond to a request for comment.
Littleton City Council enacted a law in May that requires a higher bar to approve future shooting ranges. The law also limited the ability of existing shooting ranges to expand. Murphree told council at a hearing on the law that expansion had been in Triple J's plans from the beginning. The company applied for a permit to expand to 20 lanes days later, before the law took effect.
The permit application is currently being reviewed by city staff, said city permit specialist Ernie Rose.
Fatigued by the fight
Some of those who sought to stop Triple J from completing the shooting range say they're worn out on fighting.
“People feel rather defeated,” said Rebecca Askew, president of the Highline Crossing homeowners' association, said of residents of the neighborhood. “We should've known it was going to happen. All we did was delay the inevitable.”
The neighborhood has worked with the Littleton Police Department to come up with safety strategies regarding their concerns over the range, Askew said, though some residents are still ill at ease.
“Everyone's pretty skittish,” Askew said, saying residents believe they've heard gunshots coming from the vicinity of the range, though one instance turned out to be a teenager shooting off fireworks.
Still, she hopes Highline Crossing and Triple J can get along.
“Highline can be good neighbors, I know that much,” Askew said. “We just want to live in our homes safely without issue.”
Pat Dunahay, the director of the South Park Owners Association, said if he could do it all over again, he'd try harder to help Triple J find another location. Triple J's owners initially approached Dunahay about a custom ground-up build in a location further from residences, he said, but the plans proved too expensive.
“I guess we could've worked harder to help make that happen,” Dunahay said. “It wouldn't have had any negative impact on neighbors, because there basically weren't any. Maybe we could've offered financing assistance.”
At this point, Dunahay said, he hopes Triple J is “successful, quiet, and part of South Park in the best way possible.”
Dunahay said he was heartened by the city's new ordinance raising the bar to approve new shooting ranges.
“The most important piece, I think, is that affected parties and neighbors need to be notified properly” of new shooting ranges, Dunahay said.
Brinkman said that despite the new law, Triple J seemed determined to build out to 20 lanes, and she wasn't surprised when they slipped in under the wire to apply for the expansion permit.
“They told us if it wasn't approved, they were going to sue us,” Brinkman said. “They said they felt it was a taking of their property rights.”
The bottom line, Brinkman said, is the whole brouhaha speaks to the need for citizen engagement in the city's forthcoming efforts to overhaul city code and land use regulations.
“As times and people and lifestyles change, we need to look at laws and rules that no longer reflect current situations,” Brinkman said. “What we're doing with code and land use is exactly what we should be doing. We'll have what we need going forward, and that's the most I can hope for right now.”
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