INDIANTOWN — An ammunition manufacturing company with operations in Stuart is planning to expand here, with its eye on producing up to a billion primers a year.
Grind Hard Ammo started production of copper shell casings last month in its Stuart facility and plans to produce primer, an explosive substance that energizes the powder in the case of each shell, at its proposed Indiantown facility. The company sells ammunition primarily to law enforcement and the military but has retail ammunition on its website.
The proposed facility — regulated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — would be on the north side of Southwest Farm Road at Silver Fox Lane, according to plans. The roughly 19-acre property would have a 26,116-square-foot facility with 800 feet of explosives storage separate from the main building.
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Even though the company’s plans comply with village development codes and other regulations, the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board last month still showed resistance to the project. The board recommended Village Council approval by a 4-3 vote after Chair Vernestine Palmer walked back her original objections.
“I just really don’t believe that this is the community for it. That’s my opinion,” she said at the Feb. 2 meeting.
Board member Karen Onsager told her colleagues she understood concerns about the project, but urged them to separate their personal sentiments from their analysis of the project’s code compliance.
“None of the evidence shows that this is a danger to our community whatsoever. It could be a substantial boost to our community, with tax revenue and with jobs, which we desperately need,” Onsager said.
The Village Council is to consider the project March 9.
Explosives and regulations
Questioned about the potential for an explosion, Grind Hard Ammo co-owner Austin Weiss told board members the chemical process of producing the primer happens “within a very big concrete blast wall” that directs the material “to go up, not out” in the event of an explosion.
Moreover, site plans show any explosion would stay within the property.
“In the very worst-case scenario, nothing will be affected. The blast zone completely stays on the property, and it doesn’t even reach the road,” Barry Skolnick, principal of Grind Hard Ammo, told TCPalm. “If you follow protocol, it’s a very safe procedure.”
Nearby properties include Florida Power & Light Co.’s former Indiantown Cogeneration Plant and the adjacent land slated for its Monarch Solar Energy Center. The closest residential community is Joseph L. Lee Gardens Apartments about a mile east.
Martin County Fire Marshal Doug Killane told TCPalm county and state regulations tend to overlap with ATF’s for a development such as this. Killane’s main responsibilities are to assure site access for emergency vehicles and sufficient water flow, in addition to certifying sprinkler and fire alarm plans.
“There’s got to be available water on site, whether it’s through municipal water supply or some other means: pumps, tanks, whatever it takes in order to provide water in case there was a fire incident,” Killane said.
The development is the first of its kind in Martin County since 2009, when he started in his position, he said.
“There’s storage facilities that have stored premade ammunition, and they just brought it in on pallets,” Killane said. “But this is the first time in my history with the county that we’ve actually been looking at plans for ammunition assembly.”