Neighbors fighting plans for anti-terrorism training center in New Kent

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NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Sipping a glass of wine from Gauthier Vineyards in New Kent County is a picturesque and peaceful experience.

“They come here for the peace, the quiet, the tranquility,” owner Sandi Gauthier said.

She fears, however, that peace at her vineyards and wine tasting could be destroyed by a barrage of bullets and bombs.

Plans to build an anti-terrorism training facility in the Barhamsville section of New Kent County where Gauthier Vineyards is located are in the works.

Back in 2016, 8News captured the images, sounds and complaints about another anti-terrorism training facility in Montross, Virginia.

“It sounds like I am in the middle of war in Afghanistan like I am on the front-line fighting,” Montross resident Amy Hall told 8News.

Gauthier and a group of other residents fear a training facility planned for Barhamsville would be very similar to what 8News uncovered in Montross. 

They’ve have put up dozens of these signs around town that read “no combat range,” and also started a Facebook page, launched a website and wear orange t-shirts that read “no combat range” in an effort to fight it.

“We have come together as a community opposed to this range because it doesn’t fit our community,” Barhamsville resident John Lockwood, said.

A conditional use permit filed with New Kent County calls for 260 plus acres of cornfields along Barham Road into a counter-terrorism training facility for military, law enforcement even foreigners looking to fight terrorism overseas.

“This is a rural, residential area,” Lockwood explained.

The plans include four shooting ranges, an asphalt and off-road driving course and a ballistic shoot house.

“They will be using simulated rocket-propelled grenades, sound infusion to include IEDs,” Lockwood said.

The training center could host as many as 120 students and 40 vehicles six days a week.

“They also have three days a week where they will be open until 11 at night,” Lockwood added.

Part of the facility would sit across the street from Gauthier Vineyards.

“I am 100 percent sure we would have to shut down,” Gauthier said. “We can not function with Camp Volusia across the road and that’s what it will be.”

“We are set pretty far back,” Chip Larkin with Curtis Security Consulting said.

Curtis Security Consulting is the company that submitted the application to build the anti-terrorism training facility. 

A ballistic shoot house, firing ranges and an evasive driving course are all part of the plans for an anti-terrorism training facility that is stirring up a battle in New Kent County

“The firearms we positioned on the back half of our property,” added Kaitlyn Curtis, who is heading up the project.

Curtis and Larkin told 8News the shooting ranges would sit deep into a 260-acre property, away from residents.

“We are building this with the neighbors in mind and we really want to be a good neighbor,” Curtis said.

Both Curtis and Larkin said the counter-terrorism facility is about providing a critical service to our country. 

“We are trying to do something for the greater good of our country,” Curtis said.

A similar facility called ITI recently shut down in nearby West Point, Virginia.

“There are people that are still fighting in Afghanistan, there are people that are still working in Iraq,” Larkin said.

Curtis added, “There was a gap in training, the training is highly sought after and we are looking to fill a need.”

Pastor Keith Parham with First Baptist Church of Hockley remembers ITI. His church sat next to it.

“It was full of noise, noise and traffic. Plenty of traffic, plenty of noise, morning, noon and night,” Parham recalled.

Curtis says they’ve done some initial sound testing using a sound meter used by the Army Corps of Engineers and the noise will be no louder than a normal conversation from four feet apart.

They are awaiting the result of a third party’s independent sound testing as well that was required by the County.

Curtis also adds the firing ranges will be built six feet below grade and 20-foot earth berms will be installed to serve as a barrier.

A ballistic shoot house, firing ranges and an evasive driving course are all part of the plans for an anti-terrorism training facility that is stirring up a battle in New Kent County

“It should greatly reduce the noise impact,” says Curtis.

Neighbors don’t buy it, though, and it’s not just noise that terrifies them. They have safety concerns too.

“Horsefeathers, it’s not possible,” Gauthier countered.

A review of that Montross facility by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found some of those foreigners “failed to go home after training.”

It also found 20 participants just disappeared after learning U.S. counter-terrorism tactics.

“They walk away and they slide into the community at large and I don’t think that is anything we need in Barhamsville,” Gauthier said.

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