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Newport Range Approved: Opponents Promise Appeal to State Court

Linda Callum of Unity, left, and her daughter Rhonda Callum-King of Newport, discuss their opinions during a break in last night’s public meeting on the Mountain View Gun Club and Sturm, Ruger & Co.,  plans for a proposed gun range before the Newport Planning Board at Newport High School. Both women support the plans for a gun range and were frustrated by the environmental concerns voiced against it. Callum-King, who said she has a degree in Earth Science, called some of the arguments “geological lies.” (Valley News - Libby March)

Linda Callum of Unity, left, and her daughter Rhonda Callum-King of Newport, discuss their opinions during a break in last night’s public meeting on the Mountain View Gun Club and Sturm, Ruger & Co., plans for a proposed gun range before the Newport Planning Board at Newport High School. Both women support the plans for a gun range and were frustrated by the environmental concerns voiced against it. Callum-King, who said she has a degree in Earth Science, called some of the arguments “geological lies.” (Valley News - Libby March)

Newport — After more than four hours of presentations, comments and deliberations, the Planning Board last night voted 5-0 to approve the site plan for a proposed shooting range that would be built on a 64-acre parcel on John Stark Highway.

Immediately after the vote, Geri Jachim Gallagher, a member of the opposition group Newport Safety Coalition said they would appeal the decision to Sullivan County Superior Court.

The approval came with several conditions including no shooting on federal holidays and on Sunday, except for six Sundays during the year chosen by the owners. The range must also limit firearms to under .50 caliber and conduct reclamation of the lead at least every 10 years.

“That will ensure for the community that the lead will be removed,” said board member Todd Fratzel.

Jim Laboe, an attorney with the firm Orr & Reno, who represented Mountain View Gun Club and Sturm, Ruger & Co., the applicants, said he would discuss the conditions with his clients to see if they would accept them or ask for reconsideration.

“The Sundays could be a problem because a lot of the Ruger employees work six days a week,” Laboe said.

Noise, safety and contamination were again the main issues that were addressed by the applicants in a presentation by Laboe and Scott Kranz, who is with URS of Portland, Ore., the company that designed the range.

“Ruger has gone above and beyond to address safety, the environment and noise,” Laboe said, noting that the state Department of Environmental Protection, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers will also “weigh in on this.”

The presence of berms, overhead sound baffles and three-sided sheds for the shooters will prevent stray bullets and cut down on the noise, the applicants said.

“All of the bullets will be contained in the range,” Kranz said, adding that all shooters will be required to have training by a range safety officer before they are allow to shoot.

“This range will operate safely,” Laboe said.

West Lebanon attorney Rebecca Wagner, who is representing opponents of the range, said the design does not protect natural features and along with Muriel Robinette with Envirostrategies, said the site is a poor choice because of slopes, thin soil and wetlands.

“I would assert they did not follow their own guidance (in their environmental steward plan) in selecting the site,” Robinette said. “We know we have a really poor site that does not meet the character of an optimal site in the ESP.’

Acoustical consultant Eric Cox also spoke for the opponents.

He said the sound study done by the applicants indicated the “maximum noise levels” from various firearms would be audible and exceed ambient sound levels at nearby residents. Cox urged the board to require more analysis on the frequency of noise from firearms during a typical shooting day.

About 90 people were in attendance when the meeting began and several spoke both in favor and against the proposal, which is proposed on a parcel on the south side of Route 11-103 about a quarter mile west of Dartmouth Motors.

“Once this gun range is built, there is no recourse for abutters if the noise level is too high,” said resident Doug King, who owns 60 acres to the south of the range property.

King suggested a bond of $150,000 be posted to pay for more remediation if the noise is too high.

Jachim Gallagher said the range would disturb residents.

“This is about my peace. This is about my family,” she said, asking the board to “stand up for us.”

Supporters said the range would be good for the town and did not believe what the opponents were saying about contamination.

Kevin Skinner said he lived near the old Mountain View Gun Club range and heard shots frequently, but only occasionally was it “excessive.”

“That range was next to the river and there was no problem with lead contamination in the river,” he said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.