AURORA | If all goes to plan for Mark Chatterley, Aurora will soon have an indoor shooting range with a cafe, freshly-made cinnamon rolls and the relaxed vibe of “bowling alleys in the ‘90s.”
Chatterley, who has lived near Aurora in unincorporated Arapahoe County for over a decade, has long been a gun enthusiast. But the former banker and business consultant is now seeking city government approval to convert an old Rite Aid near the intersection of East Quincy Avenue and South Reservoir Road into Chambered Shooting Sports: a full-service, indoor gun range.
Chatterley submitted his business application earlier this month to the City of Aurora planning division for approval. The application is running smoothly through its early stages, but the plans have already attracted the backing of a prominent gun rights group vowing to fight city government if they refuse to approve it.
If OK’d, the gun range joint would have “pretty much anything available” to rent and shoot, Chatterley said, from a bevy to handguns to rifles.
His vision hinges on the range specs. The current floor plan includes five shooting ranges that are completely separated by bullet-proof walls. Shooters would be able to test guns in private rooms, not surrounded by other people and the loud “cracks” of your typical indoor range, he said.
The sequestered ranges are better for safety, he told the Sentinel.
The atmosphere would also be more comfortable and relaxed, Chatterley wagers, nicely pairing shooting with a cafe, sodas and home-made cinnamon rolls prepared by his wife.
She’s a major inspiration for the gun range.
Chatterley said women and novice shooters can often feel uncomfortable at the average gun range. He wants his wife to learn how to shoot in a place where she’s not virtually surrounded by the noise and judgments of other shooters, he said.
He also noted that women are increasingly interested in shooting guns, although the sport is still male-dominated. He thinks the relaxed atmosphere might appeal more to women.
The separate ranges would include one 25-foot range, three 10-foot ranges and one five-foot range with an “advanced live fire interactive graphic experience,” according to the proposal.
Safety staff would patrol the lanes, and classes would be available to teach new gun-toters.
The range hasn’t been built yet and is awaiting city approval.
Chatterley said some local opposition to the plan has manifested in neighborhood meetings he’s had with residents in the area. Sound is a neighborhood concern, he said, and the range would employ “cutting-edge sound dampening systems to prevent noise from being heard from the outside.”
Either way, public comment will be a part of the city’s eventual decision.
Chatterley is optimistic that the project will see a nod of approval from the city Planning and Zoning commission, which is tentatively slated to consider the range next month.
Despite the controversial nature of guns, it’s been a placid application process so far for Chambered Shooting Sports, said Chatterley and George Adams, director of the city Planning and Development department.
The range would be one of several already in Aurora and the east Denver metroplex suburbs.
“The city’s actually been really good to work with,” Chatterley said. “In terms of opposition — they really haven’t given us any at all.”
But churning the waters is Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the firebrand Loveland-based gun-rights group.
Last week, Executive Director Dudley Brown sent an email action alert to members and press and said the range was in a “fight” with the city government decision makers.
“One of the newest (unopened) gun shops in the state needs our help!” the email read. “Chambered Shooting Sports is in a fight with Aurora City Council. If we don’t act now, I’m afraid they might not be able to open their doors.”
The emails confused Chatterley, so he called the group.
“They thought the city was kind of opposing it, so I just clarified,” he said. “They just mean to help.”
Adams concurred. “As far as we’re aware, there is no friction between us and the applicant,” he said. And as for the email blast: “We’re not sure how that got started,” he added.
Taylor Rhodes, RMGO field director, said his group first became involved after hearing “probably 100 people” raise concerns that the planning and zoning commission was opposed to the project.
“Situations like this are why RMGO exists, so we jumped in,” he said.
The group is recently known for sponsoring recall elections against Democratic and Republican lawmakers who have signed off on gun-control measures, including the effort to remove Democratic state house Representative Tom Sullivan from office earlier this year. They are reliably opposed to any legislation or government action viewed as anti-gun.
Rhodes doubled-down on RMGO’s willingness to bat for the gun range if any opposition works its way into the approval process.
He urged residents in favor of the gun range to submit public comments and to call planning commission members.