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Gun Range Plan Revived in Newport

Newport — The Selectboard has asked the town Conservation Commission to approve a change to the development restrictions on a closed ash landfill to accommodate the construction of a shooting range.

Town Manager Paul Brown said the Selectboard endorsed the amendment to the landfill’s conservation easement and the concept of a gun range at its meeting Monday night. The board’s action comes on the heels of a failed attempt earlier this year by gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger and partners to build a similar shooting range nearby.

The Economic Corporation of Newport — the town’s nonprofit economic development organization — acquired the 79-acre landfill property in October 2006 from the now defunct New Hampshire-Vermont Solid Waste Project. The ash buried in the landfill’s lined cells came from the Wheelabrator incinerator in Claremont during the 20-year existence of the solid waste project, which included several towns who agreed to dispose of garbage at the waste plant.

ECON is responsible for maintenance and monitoring of the site. The entrance is on the south side of Route 11-103 near the Newport-Claremont line.

Brown said about three-quarters of the property is under the conservation easement, which prohibits commercial and industrial development and requires it to remain open land. The easement expires in 2031.

When the town accepted the easement in March 2007, it did so to allay fears among residents that the site could one day again be used for ash disposal or solid waste.

The easement area includes the five-acre landfill and surrounding land where there are monitoring wells and some small buildings, Brown said.

“Much of the easement area is not necessary for the required work at the landfill,” Brown said in a statement Tuesday.

Brown said he approached Sturm, Ruger a couple of weeks after it withdrew its application in June to build a gun range on Route 11-103 east of the Kelleyville Bridge. That property is a few miles from the landfill entrance.

The Planning Board approved the site plan in February, but opponents who lived in the area of the proposed range appealed in Sullivan County Superior Court. The trial was pending when Sturm, Ruger abandoned its plans.

Brown said that it would be possible to have gun range outside the easement portion “but we believe modifying the easement to allow the use of the protected property under the easement will result in a better, safer project” while maintaining the primary goal of the easement.

“We see an opening for the development of this property which will hopefully stabilize the local economy and workforce going into the future,” Brown said in the statement. “It will also return a portion of the property to the tax rolls.”

Brown said that the site of the range would be in an area south of the closed cells that hold the ash.

Calls to Sturm, Ruger and Conservation Commission Chairman Richard Wentzel were not immediately returned.

The Conservation Commission meets at 6 p.m. at the airport.

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