Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Controversial Target Range at Nocatee Business Gone; Richard Willich Cites Opposition, Construction Plans for Its Removal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Controversial Target Range at Nocatee Business Gone; Richard Willich Cites Opposition, Construction Plans for Its Removal

Article excerpt

Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

A Nocatee businessman who came under fire after inviting the public to shoot guns at his company's outdoor target range has dismantled the range instead of trying to have county codes changed to allow it.

Richard Willich said Tuesday that opposition from Nocatee developers as well as his plans to expand a portion of his MDI Holdings property west of Ponte Vedra Beach led him to take down the range last week.

The range, a huge dirt pile with two target areas and a backstop berm, had been up 10 months inside a U-shaped embankment on the company's property. Then, in August, Willich was criticized after he announced plans for a "Leaded Tea Party" public Labor Day picnic where people could exercise their American rights of free speech and assembly and the right to bear arms by firing their guns at the range.

"The Parc Group guys [developers] didn't like it; that was the main reason for me going ahead and taking it down," he said. "They came over here and told me that it doesn't seem to fit. I made of it that [the Parc Group] was getting a lot of publicity and a lot of it wasn't great. It really wasn't worth it to me to make a big fuss because there was no intent for it long term; it was just something pending our construction plans."

Nocatee's master plan doesn't allow a firing range, said Rick Ray, a managing partner with the Parc Group, which is why he met with Willich in August.

"I told him that Nocatee has been carefully planned for various uses [including] residential, shopping and recreational," he said. "I discussed the overall plan, which didn't contemplate a shooting range. Mr. Willich was understanding and agreed to remove the range after the Labor Day event."

Willich also faced criticism from the St. Johns County government, personal attacks and insurance company concerns about the negative publicity of having people fire their guns on his business property firing range.

As result, he canceled the public Labor Day event and made it invitation only. The event went off with without any negative incidents or publicity, company and county officials said. …

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