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Gun Range Withdrawal Is Official

Newport — A few members of the group that fought against a proposed gun range let out a cheer last night after the Planning Board voted 4-0 to officially withdraw the application and approved site plan for the range.

The board took less than two minutes to fulfill the request of Sturm, Ruger and Co., which asked the board in a letter last month from attorney James Laboe to withdraw its application. In doing so, the applicant also agreed to waive their rights to any approvals associated with the application. The Mountain View Gun Club, also an applicant, concurred with Sturm, Ruger’s decision in a June 3 letter.

The Planning Board approved the site plan in February in a controversial 5-0 vote, with noise, contamination and safety being the main areas of disagreement. The decision was appealed in Sullivan County Superior Court by the Newport Safety Coalition and headed for a July hearing when the withdrawal request was submitted.

NSC is made up mostly of residents who live next to or near the proposed range site, a 64-acre parcel on the south side of John Stark Highway.

“We are thrilled with the outcome,” said NSC member and Endicott Road resident Nancy Jachim after the board vote. “I’m happy this is over.”

Jachim and Linda Billingsley, also an NSC member and Endicott Road resident, said they didn’t feel that the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment listened to their concerns or any opposition during the review process.

In March 2012, the ZBA approved a special exception because part of the range would have been on property zoned rural and a gun range is not an approved use in that zone.

In a release issued last night by NSC’s attorney Rebecca Wagner of West Lebanon, Billingsley stated that the approvals lacked full analysis of the site.

“The (Planning Board) members should have shown much greater skepticism of Ruger’s claims, especially on the project’s environmental impact,” Billingsley said in the release from Wagner. “We presented them with all the information they needed to make the right choice, but we didn’t feel that they took our concerns seriously.”

Sturm, Ruger did not give a reason for the withdrawal in a May 22 letter to the town but Wagner suggested it had to do with information sought by the state Department of Environmental Services. She credited environmental experts Muriel Robinette and Damon Burt, hired by NSC to look at Ruger’s application to DES.

“Their comments on the applications really put us over the top because they made DES take a closer look and ask for more information, which probably helped make the gun range prohibitively expensive for Ruger,” Wagner said.

Further strengthening the opponents’ position was a site visit by Peter Spear, an expert hired by the town Conservation Commission, who discovered more wetlands than the applicant disclosed, Wagner said.

Wagner also said Ruger withdrew its permit applications for Wetlands Dredge and Fill and Alteration of Terrain from DES.

Mountain View Gun Club President Bruce Burroughs said last night that they would continue to search for a suitable gun range site.

“We will just keep looking, trying to find something, somewhere,” said Burroughs, adding that they did not have any parcels in mind at this point.

Burroughs also said the club wants to continue to partner with Sturm, Ruger on the idea.

“We will be consulting with Ruger,” Burroughs said. “They are a very important part of this.”

The range was to be for both recreational shooting and product testing by Sturm, Ruger.

“They need a place they can shoot their guns so we would like to include them,” Burroughs said.

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