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Fight over military training camp in East County

Machine gun fire will continue at Covert Canyon, a private training camp near Alpine.

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Machine gun fire will continue at Covert Canyon, a private training camp near Alpine.

The Planning Commission voted Friday to allow the landowner to continue firearm training, but the more controversial live tissue pig killing at the site, has be halted for now.

Pig trauma training at Covert Canyon was the hot button issue that brought several protesters to the County Planning Commission Friday.

The owner of Covert Canyon, Marc Halcon, said he has not killed pigs on the property as part of military training for more than a year.

"We have not done live pig training since 2014," said Halcon.

For members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, that announcement was a victory.

Under county code, the 12-month time lapse means Covert Canyon must now apply for a new permit for the live pig training to resume.

RELATED STORY: [County approves military training at "Covert Canyon" without public hearing]

"We are thrilled to know that he won't be able to torture pigs in these misguided trauma training drills," said Matt Bruce with PETA.

For some, Friday's meeting was a disappointment because the commission also voted to allow law enforcement firearm training to continue, even though Halcon does not have a major use permit to operate Covert Canyon as a business.

"The main benefit for this facility is location. It's within 60-miles of the Naval Special Warfare base in Coronado. To do long distance shooting, they have to be transported to El Centro," said Halcon. 

Next door neighbors have been fighting Halcon for years. Neighbors said Covert Canyon has ruined the tranquility of their back country retirement.

Environmental groups said they are now planning on suing the county to force environmental review of Covert Canyon.

The county has ordered Marc Halcon to correct code violations and make road improvements while he pursues a major use permit for Covert Canyon.

Halcon can continue to train up to 30-law enforcement members on the site, five days a week, from 7 a.m. To 7 p.m.

Since 2007, Halcon has been trying to obtain a major use permit from the county to allow commercial law enforcement and military training at Covert Canyon.

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