The owner of an indoor gun range near Jacksonville is proposing to build a second location in Lady Lake, with a façade that looks like the Alamo.
Franklin Dickinson, owner of Basics: Range & Gun LLC in Orange Park, recently went before the Lady Lake Town Commission conceptual workshop meeting to assess the commissioners' willingness to approve a gun range and shopping center within the town limits.
All but one commissioner was on board with the idea, said Thad Carroll, the town's growth management director.
Dickinson proposes to build a multi-phase, multi-tenant development on a 16.46-acre site north of Griffin View Drive and east of South Highway 27/441. He said he is negotiating to purchase about 12 acres of the parcel.
The land is zoned for heavy commercial, which allows gun ranges, but requires a special exceptional use application from the town.
The first phase proposal includes a 24,150-square-foot building to house a 10,350-square-foot, 20-lane Tactical and Bull's Eye indoor gun range. Another 3,600 square feet would be designated for a gun shop and educational space, according to plans filed with Lady Lake.
A letter from Dickinson to the city explains that the new range will be quiet and only "a soft muffled 'pop'" would be heard from outside.
He said that his Orange Park range is in a subdivision and has not generated any complaints in the two and a half years since it opened.
"We are a good neighbor!" Dickinson wrote.
The proposed range will be state of the art, with a tactical range. He said there are only 10 tactical shooting ranges in the state now.
The next stage would be to request a special exception permit for the range and prepare a site plan for the land, said Carroll.
Dickinson is a developer by trade, with five generations of his family in the Jacksonville area.
A few years ago he decided he wanted to build a gun range and spent two years researching how to build one. He opened his first range about two and a half years ago in Orange Park, just outside of Jacksonville.
Dickinson said his Orange Park range is a family affair with several generations coming to use the range and take gun safety classes, highlighting the business is an affordable and safe location for gun owners to practice.
"My goal was to beat Walmart" on the cost of bullets, he said. "It's an expensive sport and I wanted to help. We manufacture our own ammunition."
Dickinson said he decided to build a second range in Lady Lake by The Villages after visiting a friend who works in the area. He spent a year and a quarter looking for the right location.
"I love the people here," he said of The Villages. "I will be an asset to the police, and SWAT, and the residents."
Dickinson said it will take close to two years to gain approval and build the complex building, which is, literally like constructing a building inside of another building.
Dickinson expects more people will be buying guns and looking for a place where they can learn to handle them safely.
"Cain killed Able with a rock. There is so much evil in this world that you don't even hear about," he said.
In response, he expects gun permits to continue to rise in the state.
"When I got mine there were 700,000 [permits], and now it's heading to 1.6 million."'