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Newport Neighbors Appeal Gun Range

Newport — A group of residents opposed to a Route 11 shooting range sought by gunmaker Sturm, Ruger and Co. has filed an appeal of the Planning Board’s site plan approval for the project, citing environmental concerns.

The Newport Safety Coalition, through its attorneys Rebecca Wagner Michael Fischer , filed the 13-page appeal Thursday in Sullivan County Superior Court. It alleges the board’s approval was “illegal and unreasonable,” for reasons such as failure to follow site plan regulations and properly address noise pollution concerns and the potential for groundwater contamination from lead.

The coalition, made up of property owners near the site, is asking the court to overturn the board’s approval, prohibit any further permitting and any construction until all legal issues have been resolved .

The Mountain View Gun Club and Sturm, Ruger received board approval for the range on Feb. 19.

It would be constructed on a 64-acre parcel that straddles industrial and rural zones on the south side of John Stark Highway just west of Dartmouth Motors.

Among the members of the coalition listed on the appeal are three residents of Endicott Road, who live about a mile from the range, a Bascom Road resident who lives about a half-mile away and an abutter on John Stark Highway.

“All members of the Coalition will have their lives regularly interrupted by the noise that will be created by this proposed range, if constructed, and will, subsequent to such construction, be unable to challenge the level of noise (per state law),” the petition reads.

With respect to noise, the appeal claims the Planning Board did not follow its own regulations to provide safe development and protect against conditions of noise pollution. Ruger had a sound study conducted on the property and presented a detailed map in its application of how far the sound would travel and at what decibel level, but the neighbors contend the study was insufficient.

“Ruger failed to include important detailed usage data necessary to accurately portray the noise levels produced at the proposed range,” the attorneys wrote.

Specifically, the petition calls Ruger’s sound study “self-serving” because it tested a maximum of seven weapons being fired at one time while the proposed range with 56 parking spaces and an overflow parking area, suggest far more than seven weapons during peak times .

“Ruger’s proposed range would certainly produce more noise than has been studied and/or reported,” the petition concludes.

“Based on the charge in the Board’s site plan review regulations and the written and verbal testimony, it was illegal and unreasonable for the Board to approve Ruger’s site plan application without any conditions regarding noised pollution.”

In its application, Sturm, Ruger and the Mountain View Gun Club stated that earthen berms, sound baffles and three-sided sheds where the shooter stands would adequately address the noise concerns.

On the question of potential contamination of groundwater and other contamination from lead, the petition states the site is “vulnerable to contamination” because of steep slopes, shallow bedrock, shallow groundwater, thin, sandy soils, on-site wetlands and proximity to surface water and drinking water wells.

The appeal states that the site plan approval fails to provide adequate safeguards against possible contamination and the Planning Board’s decision to hand off those issues by requiring that Ruger meet all local, state and federal requirements is “pointless” because the applicant is required to do that regardless. Furthermore, requiring lead removal every 10 years does not match the recommendation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the removal period should be based on rounds fired, soil pH, precipitation and depth of groundwater.

Another claim in the petition alleges the Planning Board failed to allow the coalition’s experts to offer rebuttal testimony but permitted Ruger’s experts to do so. Finally, the NSC states that the application was incomplete because it does not address winter snow storage on the site.

“The board completely abdicated its responsibility under its own” regulations and “failed to adequately address the concerns raised by its own electorate, willfully disobeying its own regulations,” the petition concludes.

After meeting this week’s court deadline, the coalition has to serve the appeal to the town by April 23, and the town would have until June 6 to file its response.

Sean Tanguay, attorney for Newport, was unavailable for comment. A message left for James Laboe, attorney for the gun range applicants, was not immediately returned yesterday.

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