The case returns to the Cumberland County Board of Adjustment to determine if the owners have violated the County Zoning Code.

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of North Carolina has hindered the efforts of a retired military couple to continue shooting ranges on its property near Fayetteville.

However, it is unclear whether their efforts will come to a halt if they wish to pursue them further.

The Supreme Court said on September 27 that it could not have taken up the litigation between the Cumberland County government and the couple David and Mary Hampton without going into it. This means that a decision of N.C. Court of Appeals against the Hamptons of December 2017.

The Hamptons built two outdoor shooting ranges on a 74-acre site purchased in 2011 in the Vander area east of Fayetteville. The property is located near Interstate 95 / N.C. 24 swap and close to smaller plots with family homes.

The Cumberland County Board of Adjustment ordered the areas closed in 2015 and said they violated the County Zoning Code.

The development plan requires that landowners must obtain a site plan and permit before setting up fire pits. The Hamptons had not done that. The code also states that the firing ranges must be at least 200 acres.

The zoning code, however, allows people to occasionally shoot at their own land to practice the target of setting their sights on their weapons and having turkey shots. In this case, it was about whether the Hamptons conducted formal firearms training for customers on the distances, or occasionally fired with family and friends instead.

According to the court record, the Hamptons said they used the property to train handguns, rifles and carbines, and to train tactical shooting techniques. The couple explained that it also qualified persons for concealed carrying permits. According to the decision of the appeal court, they had worked on these activities with more than 80 persons over the course of two years.

Another factor in this case: The Hamptons say that their property is a farm. Agricultural activities on a farm, including agricultural tourism activities, are exempt from zone restrictions. An unsolved question is whether the shooting activities on the Hamptons' property were agrotouristic or non-agricultural activities.

A judge at the Supreme Court overturned the district county regulatory board in March 2016. He concluded that the Hamptons and their family and friends were allowed to fire occasionally in a noncommercial environment to train the target and adjust the sights of their weapons.

The Appeals Tribunal N.C. in December, 2017, stated that the county Customs and Supreme Court judges made mistakes in the handling of the case.

The board failed to identify the key facts needed to decide the matter, such as: As the use of shooting ranges and the frequency of shooting practice.

And the judge overstepped his authority by drawing conclusions on the facts, rather than sending the matter back to the adjustment authority to draw these conclusions, the court of appeal said.

The Court of Appeals stated that the Cumberland County Justice Department must reopen the case and determine how the Hamptons used the shooting ranges, how often they use them, and decide on the basis of these conclusions and other evidence the agency decides to collect Must if the Hamptons have violated the zone code.

Writer Paul Woolverton's staff is available at pwoolverton@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3512.