Photo by Sue Watson
William Wilson discusses the layout of his home business on Peachtree Road with zoning board members (from left) Kent Faulkner, Clista Ash, R.J. Wilson, Bobby Bonds and Joe Hurdle.
Zoning denies ammo permit
In a 2-3 decision, the Marshall County Zoning Board denied a request by a Byhalia area resident to manufacture ammunition in a shop at his property on Peachtree Road.
Board members Bobby Bonds and Joe Hurdle were in favor of the motion, while directors Clista Ash, R.J. Wilson and Kent Faulkner voted against.
William Wilson, who received a permit a year ago to assemble firearms in a home business, was back before zoning seeking a permit to manufacture ammunition and apparently has been in operation for a while, selling ammo to the Byhalia and Holly Springs police departments and to gun shows and online.
He said he keeps less than 100 pounds of explosive on hand, and there is 600 feet from where he stores his ammo to the next building or neighbor.
Wilson argued that gunpowder is not explosive unless it is confined in a space such as in the chamber of a firearm.
“Gasoline is more explosive than gunpowder,” he said.
He has had police officers from Byhalia come out and train.
His neighbors, Wade and Willie Young and Carolyn Richard, complained about shooting.
“There is too much firing going on,” Young said.
Wilson said he has all the state licenses required to manufacture the ammunition. He said testing the ammunition has been done on his property in a safe berm but firing guns has been rare.
It has been about six weeks since he tested ammunition, he said.
Ruthie and Joseph Cowan, of McCray Road, said when Wilson or his friends are testing ammunition, it sounds like fireworks.
The board of supervisors heard the Cowans’ concerns on Monday and were told Wilson has agreed to find another location to test-fire his ammo.
Wilson said that sheriff’s deputies had come out and looked at his backstop and he is legal to shoot. The shooting range is 375 feet away from any other structure and has a backstop, he said.
“I have neighbors who shoot more than I do,” he said.
He said the lead that is used is copper-plated. Rifle parts he uses come in on 18-wheelers and he ships assembled rifles on a skid on an 18-wheeler.
Zoning director Ken Jones said the assembly of rifles is not at issue. And the special exception Wilson was requesting is to make ammunition and has nothing to do with shooting, which is a separate issue that zoning does not have authority over.
Wilson said he test-fires his loads to make sure the ammunition is good before shipping.
Faulkner suggested Wilson set up his business in an industrial area.
Zoning board member Wilson suggested the group complaining about the shooting go before the Marshall County Board of Supervisors and complain.
“That’s not our issue today,” he said. “I want to deal with manufacturing of ammo today.”
“Or set up a meeting with the sheriff’s department,” Jones suggested.
“Nothing I am doing is dangerous,” William Wilson said.
Neighbor Shawn McCarly said the issue is safety.
“Evidently what he is doing is safe,” Hurdle said.
“He has all the state licenses and he is inspected,” Jones added.
McCarly asked what happens when Wilson expands his ammunition business.
Ash asked if there was no more shooting, would the neighbors be comfortable with this type operation near their homes.
“No,” said the group collectively.
McCarly asked what happens if Wilson’s building catches fire?
“How can you risk the safety of people? How can you assure me right now I’m completely safe? You throw a box of shells or .22 bullets in a fire and what happens?” McCarly asked.
Jones asked Wilson what types of fire protection he has in his building.
“Five fire extinguishers,” Wilson said.
Bonds made a motion to approve Wilson’s permit request and that those in opposition go before the board of supervisors to appeal. Hurdle seconded the motion. The motion failed and Jones advised Wilson he could go before the board of supervisors and appeal zoning’s denial of his permit to manufacture ammunition on his property.
In other business, the zoning board:
• approved a deeding of 4.75 acres from a 19.2-acre tract owned by Jerry and Betty Merchant. Julie and Bruce Smith will build a home on the property located on Shinault Road in Reed Bartley Subdivision. The property is zoned Residential Estates.
• approved a special exception for Jonnie Collins to place a single-wide mobile home on her property on Highway 72. The 4.7-acre tract is zoned Agricultural Residential.
• tabled a request from Hunter and Chris Kahler to place a single-wide mobile home on 25 acres located on Lundine Road.
• denied a request by Loretta Jones to place a second dwelling on her property on Etherlene Road. The 4.5-acre tract is zoned Residential-1 which does not allow a second dwelling to be placed on a lot to be rented out. Ash, Hurdle and Bonds voted to deny the request while Faulkner opposed the measure. Wilson left the meeting early and did not vote.