By Moses Leos III
Concern is growing among several residents in the Buda extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) over development of an outdoor shooting pit, and construction of a possible gun range, on private property nearby.
T.J. Higginbotham, who owns the pit on his 36-acre property and is contemplating building an enclosed pistol range, said he is within his rights as a landowner to have a pit, as he is following the law.
“The people who are moving here, they don’t know the rules and laws,” Higginbotham said. “I don’t need anyone’s permission. It’s my land and I can do with it as I wish, as long as I’m within the law.”
Sidney Skinner, who lives in the Creekside Park subdivision, has spearheaded a group that’s opposed the pit on Higginbotham’s property.
Safety of surrounding neighborhoods, primarily from the possibility of stray bullets from the pit, is a concern for many neighbors, Skinner said. She added surrounding neighborhoods, such as Creekside, White Oaks Preserve and Whispering Hollow, along with the Sodalis Memory Center and Mark’s Overlook Lodge would be affected.
Noise pollution is also a factor, with several residents claiming they have called the police, Skinner said.
She said she’s heard a rapid-fire pistol and sounds of what she claimed are rifle shots from the pit.
“We’re very concerned,” Skinner said. “We feel like it’s going to be in our backyard.”
Environmental concerns, primarily over the possibility of lead from bullets contaminating the ground and groundwater sources under the property, led Skinner and the group to write a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in protest of the pit.
To date, Skinner said she has not reached out to Higginbotham.
“This is a lead pollution situation. This is a water pollution situation,” Skinner wrote in her letter. “We would like you to look into this development. We would like you to STOP this development before it gets going.”
Higginbotham said he was “within his rights,” according to state laws, to have the shooting pit on his property, which is located outside of the city limits.
According to Texas State Law, a municipality cannot apply regulation to the discharge of firearms in the ETJ if the firearm is a pistol, shotgun, BB gun or a bow and arrow and if it’s shot on 10 or more acres of land and more than 1,000 feet from a public tract of land, a school, hospital or day-care facility.
Firearms can also be discharged in the ETJ if they are more than 600 feet from the property line of a residential subdivision and multifamily residential complex.
Higginbotham said he has only allowed pistols to be shot at his pit, and does not allow rifles to be shot. He also said he doesn’t allow rifle hunting on his property.
He said most of the bullets used at his pit have brass projectiles in them. Higginbotham said “ammunition people” regulate bullets. He said he doesn’t buy “ammunition that has a lead projectile.” Higginbotham said stray bullets don’t go anywhere and “go toward the bottom of the pit.”
“There have been regulations with lead and shotgun shells and rifle ammunition,” Higginbotham said. “There’s little lead that’s used to my knowledge.”
He also said no nearby residents have “pulled in my driveway and honked their horn, no one has stopped me at the grocery store” to talk about it.
Higginbotham said he’s now contemplating building an enclosed ten-lane public gun range on his property. The range would only fire pistols, Higginbotham said.
Skinner said she and her neighbors would continue to fight the development.
“We are trying to get people interested in this to help support us, so it will not come about,” Skinner said.