LEESBURG, Fla. – Ares Firearms Training Facility — a gun range with a controversial reputation — has been granted the use of flamethrowers after a Lake County commission meeting.
In a 4-to-1 vote, county commissioners made changes to the conditional-use permit for the Leesburg gun range.
The facility also requested permissions like camping on the grounds, longer hours and extended opening days. All requests were denied.
However, the county did allow the use of flamethrowers.
“They chose, and that’s their decision, and that’s what it is,” said Tre Johnson, operations manager for the range. “I mean, just like before they accepted what happened, I accept what happens. Also, there is no ill-will or anything or any problems there.”
Johnson said the facility understands neighbors’ concerns about noise and even the use of flamethrowers but said safety measures are the top concern.
“We will build an area specifically for the flamethrowers. We will keep it maintained, so it doesn’t have anything in there, and we will have fire suppression in that area,” said Johnson.
“I don’t think it was what we wanted on both sides,” said neighbor Louise Crews. “But it was a great deal.”
While some residents are OK with the addition, others are calling for change due to concerns over noise levels from the range — a long-standing issue ranging all the way back to 2019, when the facility was first granted a conditional-use permit for firearms.
“When we come out here, we want the peace and quiet. Instead, we hear the gunfire, and explosions and other things,” said neighbor Alan Chen.
Chen and his wife Louise are two of the neighbors calling for change: one reason being the re-opening of the nearby Emerald Marsh Conservation Area.
“This is just a huge loss for our community. You bring in a business, and it shuts down a community park,” said Louise.
The park was closed in 2019 by the St. Johns River Water Management District due to live fire entering the park. Since the park’s closure, higher barriers have been built to capture more gunfire on the range.
“We’ve been talking with St. Johns’ personnel, and we would like to continue to talk to them about possibly opening up that area on the day that the Ares Gun Range is closed,” Chen said.
The Ares training facility will continue to operate under this revised conditional-use permit.
Neighbors said they will be actively monitoring the facility over the next year to make sure the area remains safe and quieter for everyone.
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