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Newport gun range up against three appeals

Union Leader Correspondent

March 25. 2013 10:05PM

NEWPORT - Three different appeals have been filed against the Planning Board's approval of the proposed Sturm, Ruger & Company and Mountain View Gun Club gun range on John Stark Highway.

The Newport Safety Coalition filed two appeals, one with the town Zoning Board of Adjustments and the second with Sullivan County Superior Court.

Representing the group of residents, West Lebanon attorney Rebecca Wagner said Monday the coalition's appeals address four basic issues: noise pollution, environmental contamination, the destruction of wetlands near some of the coalition members' homes and the board's failure to follow its own procedure during the final site plan review on Feb. 19, when the gun range was approved.

"It's the fact that they are putting a new range on an undeveloped parcel and residents have the opportunity to be involved with the process, voice their concerns, make sure it's done right, and there are a number of concerns for this process," Wagner said.

The third appeal was filed by Cynthia Jachim-Gallagher of Endicott Road. A hearing for her appeal is scheduled for July 9 in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport.

Town Planning and Zoning Administrator Julie M. Magnuson said the Zoning Board would most likely hold a special meeting in the next 30 days to address the appeal. She said the town had not yet been served with the coalition's superior court appeal.

A year ago, the Mountain View Gun Club received a special exception from town zoning laws to establish the outdoor recreational shooting facility on a 67 acre lot.

The Mountain View Gun Club, which used to have a shooting range in town, has been without a shooting range for many years. Sturm, Ruger and Company plans to acquire the property to establish the shooting range and then transfer ownership to the gun club.

The outdoor shooting facility would be for gun club members for recreation, competition and instruction in safe gun handling.

Ruger would also use the shooting range for product testing, which Ruger attorney James Laboe of Orr& Reno said would likely only be a few times a year at the most.

Wagner said a major concern for the coalition members is that the Planning Board made no restrictions regarding noise levels, and state law prohibits nuisance criminal or civil action for existing gun ranges.

"There ended up being nothing about sound in the ultimate conditions," she said.

The town has no noise ordinance but according to Laboe, Ruger wants to be responsible in regards to noise levels and plans to implement measures to dampen it.

Wagner said Ruger chose the Newport location over a Unity site after the town of Unity adopted a noise ordinance.

According to Laboe the gun range would use EPA best practices to prevent environmental impact such as lead from discharged ammunition seeping into ground water.

It is a matter of maintaining a certain pH balance in the soil, he said.

But according to Wagner, the coalition's environmental expert finds the proposed environmental plan "lacking."

Wagner said the property also may have more wetlands than Ruger disclosed.

Jachim-Gallagher said in her appeal that she and her family live about half a mile from the proposed gun range and would be adversely impacted by the noise, particularly in the use of high-caliber ammunition for skeet shooting.

Ruger's involvement and use of the gun range is also vague, she asserts in her appeal.

"It remains unclear if this is a recreational facility, a test facility, an employee benefit or a combination of the three. Anything beyond a mere recreational facility presents clearly undesirable and unreasonable noise for those who share close proximity to the range."

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