Attorney Daniel M. Zavadil handles Civil Rights Appeal

Middlesex settles case
Shooting range's owner gets $30,000


BY KIRAN KRISHNAMURTHY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Nov 28, 2001


The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors yesterday settled a $5 million federal lawsuit filed by a Deltaville man who claimed the board had violated his constitutional rights by closing his shooting range.

The board agreed to pay $30,000 to Macey White Jr., who was assisted in his case by the National Rifle Association. The money will come from county insurance proceeds, not directly from taxpayer dollars.

John Gibney, an attorney representing the county, said the board's offer did not include an admission of wrongdoing.

But Dan Zavadil, a lawyer at the NRA's Northern Virginia headquarters, said the resolution nonetheless is a judgment against the county. "To us, it's clearly an admission of liability," Zavadil said.

To some, the case has seemed an odd battle in the Middle Peninsula, a place where hunting and shooting are ways of life.

White, a science teacher and part-time farmer, filed suit in August with the help of the NRA. The gun-rights group took up his cause as a defense of constitutional rights. He sought $1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive awards in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond.

The lawsuit alleged the board circumvented White's right to due process by deciding on its own to cancel his April shooting camp for children just a few days before it was to be held.

The county's zoning administrator had approved the camp as a permitted use of White's 120-acre farm, which is zoned in a low-density rural category. But when a neighborhood delegation complained, supervisors yanked the permit.

Zavadil contended the board should have appealed the zoning administrator's decision to the county's Board of Zoning Appeals.

At least one neighbor complained that the sound of shot- guns interrupted the placid waterfront environment and could devalue properties. That neighbor, Tony Meushaw, also contended that lead bullets and shot threatened to pollute a nearby creek; White countered that the waterfront homes are themselves a threat to the natural habitat. Meushaw further said the range was a threat to public safety, noting that state Route 33 is about 1,200 yards downrange of the firing line.

White, who moved from Cleveland to the family farm in 1995, said yesterday he was conflicted about the outcome. He said he thought the county had admitted wrongdoing by offering the $30,000 payment to settle the case.

"I wanted a confession," he said. "If they're saying that's not the case now, I feel like I've been tricked and fooled. They have lied."

White said he is pessimistic about the range's future. "I would like to continue to do it. Most likely, by this time next year, they will have found a way to shut me down," he said.

Gibney said the board's interpretation of the zoning ordinance still stands. If White decides to open the range, Gibney said, "He does it at his own risk."


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Contact Kiran Krishnamurthy at (540) 371-4792 or kkrishnamurthy@timesdispatch.com