NC Residents: Complaints at Military Training Sites Ignored

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Rod Brower, pictured here, and eight other residents are suing Richmond County, the City of Hoffman and Oak Grove Technologies over disruptions they say were caused by gunfire and explosions at a nearby military training facility.

Nine people filed a lawsuit Monday in Richmond County against two local governments and a military training center in hopes of stopping the major disruption they say the facility is bringing to their lives.

Neighbors and their families have been complaining to local authorities for more than a year about the unrest at the Oak Grove Technologies training center.

The report of rifles and other firearms cracking from there regularly fills the air on Rushing Road in Hoffman, the plaintiffs say. Oak Grove Explosions are so intense that they have knocked objects off walls and damaged the foundations of homes, they say.

Hoffman is a town of about 800 people, about 15 miles northeast of Rockingham, where 65% of residents are black, according to the 2020 census. Rushing Road is just outside the city limits, where residents and their families live for generations.

In 2014, Raleigh-based Oak Grove Technologies opened its training center on Rushing Road, which the company says it uses to train people. working for the military and law enforcement.

Local landowner Rod Brower said the company was initially willing to contact neighbors to let them know when the shooting would take place, but more recently has been unwilling to work with them to reduce disruption of the installation.

Richmond County, including County Planning Director Tracy Parris, the City of Hoffman and Oak Grove Technologies are being sued.

Brower, who heads the Hoffman-Marston Concerned Citizens group, which filed the complaint, had to move his mother, 78, who wears a pacemaker, away from her home on Rushing Road because they smelled the Unexpectedly the shots and explosions were bad for his heart. The noise also terrified his dogs, he said.

“I just wish I could enjoy our property here without it feeling like a battle zone,” Brower said.

The explosions have intensified in recent weeks and the noise, along with the unpredictability, is making it difficult to live peacefully, said neighbor Bill Swann, who lives a few hundred yards from the training center. Sometimes people fire guns at the facility until 10 p.m., residents say.

Neither Oak Grove Technologies nor Richmond County officials returned calls or emails seeking comment.

Hoffman Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Kelly initially referred questions about the lawsuit to an attorney representing the city, but later said he was also affected by the training center.

Kelly said he lived across US Highway 1 from Rushing Road and the training center, and his house sometimes shook from the explosions in Oak Grove.

“It was going very badly on Sunday, during church service,” Kelly said. “Sometimes it doesn’t look like gunshots, it looks like something exploding.”

The plaintiffs claim that Oak Grove is operating the facility under an invalid permit. Records show that the conditional use permit, which Richmond County granted Oak Grove in 2014, lists a parcel identification number that is not in the county’s system.

Oak Grove’s 2014 permit appears to have been at least partially copied from a 2011 permit issued to the company by Richmond County for a different property, more than a mile from the Rushing Road Training Center.

Because of these issues with the permit, the plaintiffs are asking that the training center be closed until Oak Grove can obtain a permit with the correct ownership information. If the court sides with the plaintiffs, Oak Grove could be forced to restart the licensing process, which would mean another public hearing before the county board of adjustment.

During the 2014 licensing process, Richmond County held a public hearing for the training center, but no one showed up to oppose the granting of the license, the plaintiffs acknowledge. Military and law enforcement training on Rushing Road began soon after, the complaint says.

The plaintiffs are also asking that a jury compel the city of Hoffman to produce copies of its ordinances and an official zoning map, as the plaintiffs claim that part of the Oak Grove property is inland. by Hoffmann.

On Monday, Kelly said the Hoffman City Council discussed passing a noise ordinance, after Brower and his group approached the council in September.

Before filing the lawsuit, Brower said he and the other plaintiffs tried to discuss their issues with the county, city and Oak Grove. After failing to have productive conversations with either party, Brower said they felt they had no choice but to sue.

Attorney Randy Herman took the complaint to the Richmond County Judicial Center just after 11 a.m. Monday morning, before filing the complaint with the sheriff to serve on the parties.

Herman said the county, city and Oak Grove will have 30 days to respond to the complaint once they are served, which he expects to happen this week. Herman said the case will likely bleed well into next year.

Brower said he was disappointed with city and county officials’ response to the plight of Rushing Road residents.

“The fact that they don’t live next to this place, they didn’t have to move anyone,” he said. “It’s frustrating because you would think officials would be more in tune with the needs of people in their county.”

This story was originally published November 1, 2022 2:32 p.m.

Payton Guion is an award-winning investigative reporter for the Charlotte Observer. Before returning to his hometown newspaper, Payton reported for the Star-Ledger and Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, and The Independent and VICE News in New York. He graduated from Appalachian State University with a master’s degree from Columbia University.

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