Cloudy
43°
Cloudy
Hi 52° | Lo 37°

Newport Gun Range Application Withdrawn

Newport — Gun maker Sturm, Ruger and the Mountain View Gun Club have abruptly, and without explanation, asked to withdraw their controversial application for an already approved shooting range on Route 11-103.

In a brief letter to the Planning Board, attorney James Laboe with Orr & Reno in Concord, who represented the applicants during the lengthy approval process, said in addition to withdrawing the site plan application, the applicants “waive their rights to the approvals associated with the Application.”

Planning and Zoning Administrator Julie Magnuson said yesterday the Planning Board would consider the withdrawal request at its meeting next Tuesday. Magnuson said she expects the board will approve it.

No explanation for the decision was given in the letter, which was dated late last month but only made public yesterday. Attempts to reach Sturm, Ruger were unsuccessful.

The Planning Board approved the site plan for the shooting range in February, over the objections of neighbors who were concerned about noise and pollution.

Withdrawal of the application and waiver of rights means that if the applicants come back with a new proposal, the approval process would begin anew, Magnuson said. The 64-acre parcel is not owned by Sturm, Ruger or the gun club but was under contract, pending resolution of the legal challenges to the proposal.

The withdrawal comes just days before the town was required to file its response in Sullivan County Superior Court to an appeal by the Newport Safety Coalition of the Planning Board’s decision. The case was scheduled for a “hearing on the merits” July 9. The coalition is comprised mostly of residents who live next to or near the proposed site.

Geri Jachim Gallagher, who lives on Endicott Road about a mile from the site, is a member of the coalition.

Jachim Gallagher said last night that while she could not be certain, she suspects the decision to pull the application may have had something to do with environmental issues and a state Department of Environmental Services review.

Muriel Robinette, of New England EnviroStrategies, was hired by NSC to review the applicants’ plan to DES.

“She essentially skewered it,” said Jachim Gallagher about the plan to address contamination concerns. “The extent of the recommendations given to DES would have cost a significant amount of money. I think it was the environmental aspect.”

Opponents argued from the outset that the proposed location had a lot of wetlands, steep slopes and ledge, making it vulnerable to heavy metal contamination from spent ammunition.

“There is a watershed underneath and there is runoff to the Sugar River,” Jachim Gallagher said. “It is a poor site for what they were planning.”

Sturm, Ruger, which has a large production plant in Newport, said during the review process that the range would be for recreational shooting and product testing.

In early 2012, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a special exception for the parcel, which straddles both industrial and rural zones. A gun range is an allowed use in former but not the latter, so Zoning Board approval was needed.

That set up the Planning Board’s site plan review and the unanimous approval in February. Opponents of the range cited noise, safety, impacts on home values and potential contamination from lead as the main reasons the board should reject the site plan.

Sturm, Ruger and the gun club presented detailed plans they said would minimize the noise, protect the environment and more than adequately provide safety for the shooters and surrounding properties.

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