Garland Mountain

Garland Mountain Sporting Clays, which has been the subject of a pending lawsuit for more than a year, announced a settlement agreement with neighbors on Monday.

WALESKA – Neighbors of an outdoor shooting range atop Garland Mountain in the Salacoa countryside have come to an agreement with the owner of the clay-shooting recreation facility that will bring an end to more than a year of negotiations and saving the business and county from a $10 million lawsuit.

The Tribune reported in October 2017 that The Salacoa Community Association, a group consisting of Salacoa Valley residents, filed a lawsuit against Garland Mountain Sporting Clays and members of Cherokee County planning staff, alleging zoning violations.

Homeowners told the Tribune then that gunshots from the range made the rural community sound like “a war zone,” disrupting daily life in the valley.

Jack Chevalier, owner of Garland Mountain Sporting Clays, said Monday that while attorneys are still hammering out the formal language of the agreements, work will soon begin to permanently relocate certain shooting bays to redirect noise away from residents of the Salacoa Valley.

“We found the stations that were causing the issue and generating the higher decibel readings. So what we agreed to is to relocate those stations to different areas of the property, which are lower-lying areas, not facing the valley,” he said. “When we relocated, we did testing from the proposed locations, the decibel readings were hugely dropped – some of them didn’t even register.”

While negotiations took more than a year, Chevalier applauded the Salacoa residents’ willingness to work with him.

“I feel good about what the actual result is, I just wish we could have had those communications initially and avoided a lot of those drawn out legal aspects,” he said. “But it’s what I truly feel is a win-win for them and for us as well, in that the business on the whole will be better off with better relationships with our neighbors.”

Chevalier credited Cherokee County Commissioner Steve West with bringing the shooting range and its neighbors to the negotiating table. West’s persistence, he said, is what opened the lines of communication.

John Bennett, who has served as the voice of the Salacoa Community Association in negotiations, said Monday that he and other residents are also “very pleased” with the outcome of the agreements. Bennett said the goal of the association was to re-establish the quality of life in Salacoa Valley, and with the agreement, that goal has been achieved.

“The attorneys still need to get all the legal work finalized, but Mr. Chevalier has been very cooperative in trying to make changes that would make life better for us in the Salacoa Valley,” he said. “I have been very pleased with the cooperation with Mr. Chevalier and the assistance from Commissioner West. (West) has been extremely helpful, and without his efforts, we probably would not be to the point of getting this resolved.”

West said while he did work hard to bring the parties together to discuss solutions, the credit for agreements made goes to everyone involved. He applauded both Chevalier and Bennett for working together and listening to each other and credited former commissioner Scott Gordon for finding an acoustics consultant. He also thanked the Cherokee Marshal’s Office for its staff’s assistance.

“We’re tickled to death to get this resolved, and we’re very pleased with the outcome. It took a lot of planning and effort to get there, but with everybody’s cooperation, it worked out for everybody,” West said on Monday.

Chevalier said once legal documents are finalized, work can begin permanently relocating the range’s problem stations. He said proposed changes to the site layout have been reviewed and approved, and the business hopes to have the work complete by the end of spring.

“All the plans are in place. The equipment is ready. Everything’s set aside. We’re just waiting to get across the finish line here, and we’ll hit the ground running,” he said.

Garland Mountain Sporting Clays is located at 2618 Garland Mountain Trail, Waleska. Its hours of operation are Wednesday – Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 – 6 p.m.

For more information, visit garlandmountain.com.

Thomas is a government, business, crime and features reporter for the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and currently lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.

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