COLUMBIA — There will be no paintball field opening in the Lake Chaparral area, but at least it will remain quiet enough to fish.
On Tuesday night, Boone County Commissioners unanimously rejected Laura Lorraine Wesselman's request for a permit to use her 7-acre lakeside plot to open a paintball business. Tim Watring of Columbia, who represented Wesselman at the meeting, said the field would serve many local paintball fans, who have to drive as far as St. Louis to play.
The request was an appeal of the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission's denial of the project, which stemmed from concerns about how the noise and additional traffic would affect neighboring property values.
During Watring's presentation, he said the field would be "no louder than a Weedeater" from 100 feet away. He included findings from a Mississippi study that suggested paintball fields can actually increase the value of nearby property by 36 percent.
"Kids play paintball all the time in the woods with no protective measures taken," Watring said.
He said the business would strive to "give paintball a positive image" and give participants a safe place to play.
Several community members came forward to speak in favor of the paintball field, including members of the MU paintball team.
Johnathan Curtis, an MU paintball player, said his team numbers have been suffering since the two paintball locations closest to Columbia shut down. While the team used to have 80 to 120 members, numbers have dwindled to 15.
"It's a club we'd like to continue," Curtis said, "but having to drive so far makes it difficult to practice."
Heather Alton, a teacher in Columbia, said a paintball field would offer unique educational opportunities.
"When I first played, I was amazed at the communication and teamwork that paintball builds," Alton said.
Nearby property owners were not so enthusiastic.
Donald Dennis, Wesselman's neighbor and resident of a second-generation family farm, said the paintball field would be "a general disturbance of (his) peace."
"I doubt my mailbox would ever be the same color again," Dennis said.
Dennis also worried about "the popping guns" disturbing his fishing.
Shari Harwood, another homeowner, worried about traffic on Route U, with the site's drive located on a potentially treacherous hill.
"Will there be carloads of teenagers free to wander our neighborhoods, racing along on roads that aren't designed for it?" Harwood asked.
Although the commission acknowledged the need for a paintball field nearby, they believed a better location could be found in a non-residential area.
"If I was living in that neighborhood, I would be very frustrated with the guns going off," Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said.