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Neighbors: Gun Range Will Be Noisy

Newport — Noise is the biggest concern for opponents of a proposed gun range on a 67-acre parcel on John Stark Highway.

Gerald Callum, who lives along the highway, was one of several residents who spoke at last night’s Planning Board meeting after a presentation of the site plan by attorney Jim Laboe, with the firm Orr and Reno, and range designer Scott Kranz.

“I could not listen to the TV,” Callum told the board about the noise during a sound test at the property.

Callum said he called the police and the officer who arrived said, “Oh, that is loud.”

Another nearby resident, Gerry Jachim, who lives on Endicott Road, said she heard noise from the test as well.

“I could clearly hear all of the gun testing,” said Jachim.

The purpose of last night’s meeting was for the board to review the preliminary site plan, ask questions and listen to concerns from the public. Laboe said after the meeting he was not certain when the final site plan would be submitted.

The proposed range, which received a special exception from the Zoning Board of Adjustment last spring because it is partially in a residential zone, would have four ranges of varying distances for trap shooting, pistols and rifles.

Laboe said Sturm, Ruger and Co. would build it for members of the Mountain View Gun Club to use. Ruger would also do product testing at the range.“The design addresses key issues of safety, sound and environmental” concerns, said Laboe.

Rebecca Wagner, a West Lebanon attorney, represents the Newport Safety Coalition, which is made up of gun range opponents. She had several issues with the plan, including the type of weapons that will be used, lead contamination and the level of staffing by range officers.

“They are not willing to say what weapons will be tested,” Wagner said.

She asked that, if the plan is approved, the caliber of guns allowed at the facility would be limited and no semi- or fully automatic weapons be allowed.

Wagner also asked that her clients be allowed to inspect the property, which is under contract for sale to Sturm, Ruger and Co.

Ron Bushway represents the gun club that would benefit from the range. He said the club will get as many range officers as it can, but it would not have one there all the time. Bushway also said the club is considering a swipe card at the entrance gate to allow members access.

Laboe said the range would put an end to “backyard and sandpit shooting,” and let people “come to a place where they can shoot safely.”

Kranz, the range designer with URS in Portland, Ore., highlighted the aspects of the design intended to reduce noise and improve safety. These include 8-foot berms, overhead baffles to prevent bullets from leaving the range, and three-sided sheds where the shooters stand. Range safety officers would train shooters, and violators of club rules would be expelled.

Kranz also discussed the environmental plan to prevent lead contamination. “The focus of the environmental stewardship plan is to keep lead at the location and not allow it to get into the environment,” he said.

In response to statements that the plan did not adequately address storm water discharge or lead reclamation, Maureen Smith, also an attorney with Orr and Reno, said those details would be contained in permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Services and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In other business, the board approved a subdivision of the Newport Shopping Plaza that will allow New London Hospital to tear down the vacant bowling alley and expand the Newport Health Center. Terry LeBlanc, chief operating officer at New London Hospital, said hospital officials were unsure at this time when they would submit a site plan for the expansion.

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