Shooting range in Old Arabi set to reopen

Jan 4th, 2013 | By | Category: Top Story

For the first time since 2005, a recreational indoor shooting range and gun shop will open its doors
in Arabi after the council approved the owner’s conditional use permit 5-1. Councilchair Guy McInnis
voted no, and District B Councilman Nathan Gorbaty was absent.

Some residents who remember the range pre-Katrina spoke at the December 28 council meeting in favor of the range re-opening, as many are looking forward to once again having a safe place to use their firearms in St. Bernard Parish. But several Old Arabi residents who live near the facility did not have such fond memories of the shooting range—many citing noise pollution as a top concern.

Arabi resident Fred Sigur frequented the range in its heyday and spoke in favor of the re-opening. “I frequented the shooting range pre-Katrina, and I’ve never heard of anyone complaining of sound,” said Sigur.

“The range before was extremely quiet and safe,” said Dennis Melancon, also an Arabi resident. “There were tournaments held there, and I would love to see something like that come back to St. Bernard.”

Richie Montelaro, the original developer of the building, says it was designed in the early 1980’s to FBI training facility standards. The current owner and developer of the site, Brannon LeBouef, assured the council and residents that the facility’s safety and noise proofing standards will be state-of-the-art. LeBouef, a former police officer and Marine, is also founder of a firearm safety and training organization.

“There are some things that are going to happen during the renovation process that are going to make noise a non-issue; the biggest is going to be the spray-foam insulating the majority of the top-half of the walls and the roof,” explained LeBouef. “There’s also some rubber paneling that goes along the side wall to help with stray ricochets and act as secondary sound mitigation.”

LeBouef also explained that there is sound board against the wall that will be updated and enhanced with newer material, and the backstop where the bullets actually hit will be updated with a “retrograding” process that he says will almost eliminate airborne lead shed from a discharged weapon. He predicts that
with these enhancements and renovations, there will be a 50 to 60 percent reduction in sound, even though
as it stands now, his facility is no where near breaking the legal limit.

Old Arabi resident Jan Hirschey brought forth a petition with 28 signatures of neighbors “within earshot”
who do not want to see the range re-open.

“I’ve been living in my home for 30 years, and I remember the old range— it was an annoying, awful
intrusion,” said Hirschey, who said she could hear the pops and cracks of gunfire clearly from her back deck. “I don’t care if it’s legal or not legal you need to be a good neighbor and treat those within earshot with dignity.”

AJ Cousin has lived one and a half blocks away from the range since 1970 and said that in addition to noise—which he remembers “popping sounds” clearly— his concern was the school bus stop located across from the range.

“There are children who wait for the bus on Montalvo and Mehle every morning and every evening and they’re in front of the backdrop for the shooting range,” said Cousin.

Seeking to find a middle ground between the two parties, District A Councilman Ray Lauga amended LeBouef’s conditional use permit so that several building requirements must be met before the certificate of occupancy can be issued.

Some of those requirements include extending the soundboards on the side walls up to 8 feet from the finished floor, and increasing the amount of spray foam insulation to a half pound in density and to a minimum thickness of 6-inches on all perimeter walls and the entire ceiling area. Lauga also stated that sound reduction measures should be applied to all louvres, vents and exhausts. Additionally, within 12 months of the certificate of occupancy being issued LeBouef must also provide a rubber kevlar backstop
mat for the full length of the back wall.

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