San Diego officials will challenge Blackwater Worldwide's permit for an indoor military training facility in South County, saying the public didn't know about the plan.
"Residents deserve to know when a facility like this is approved - before it is approved," San Diego City Council President Scott Peters said.
The North Carolina company received a permit in March for a training site in Otay Mesa, an industrial section of south San Diego, shortly after abandoning its controversial proposal to build a larger facility in Potrero in East County.
The city Development Services Department granted the permit without public hearings. The site was already permitted for a vocational school, and city staff members decided Blackwater's training of Navy personnel qualified. The facility will have a shooting range, a simulated Navy ship and classrooms.
Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater vice president, said the opposition seems to originate from anti-war sentiment, not animosity toward the facility itself.
Bonfiglio said the company has been conducting military training for five years at several facilities in San Diego County, including the American Shooting Center on Ruffin Road in Kearny Mesa.
"If they go after our range, they are getting ready to take on every other firearms business in the county," he said. "They're asking something of us that they are not asking of any other business, and quite frankly it's inappropriate."
Yesterday, Peters, San Diego Councilman Ben Hueso and Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, held a rally in Otay Mesa to oppose the permit. They were joined by about 30 community activists.
Mary Ussery of Coronado wore a "Stop Blackwater" T-shirt. She said military activity belongs on military bases, not private property.
"Although it's not my backyard, it's close enough," Ussery said. "It's still my country."
Peters said Blackwater wasn't upfront about its plans to operate out of a 61,600-square-foot building owned by Los Angeles company Hometex in a business park on Siempre Viva Road, just south of Brown Field.
"They filed for a permit under the name of a subcontractor as a deliberate dodge to keep our city and community in the dark," Peters said.