The Monadnock Rod and Gun Club says it’s not being allowed to clean up the lead contamination on a neighbor’s property, despite court orders.
“We wanted to walk the property to look at what needs to be done and we were refused access,” said Tom Coneys.
Coneys is a member of the club and has been trying to work on the club’s behalf to resolve the legal issues that have forced the firearms range to be shut down for close to two years. The club illegally built an extension to the gun range onto a neighbor’s property, and encroached on wetlands in doing that.
Now, the club has lost two lawsuits over the land and has been ordered to pay $3,500 in fines to the Town of Peterborough and $650,000 in damages to the neighbors. Scott and Bridgette Perry, and they must file a remediation plan with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. None of that has been done.
Attorney L. Phillips Runyon, who represents the Perrys, said he has not seen any proposal from the club to bring in credentialed, professional engineers to survey the damaged property. The Perrys have been clear that they do not want any club members on the property.
“The Perrys certainly don’t want any club members on their property to do anything,” Runyon said.
Coneys said past club leadership made a series of mistakes when it comes to the gun range. They ignored town zoning, ignored wetlands regulations, and built on land they did not own.
“The damage was done with volunteer labor and research,” Coneys said. “The club made some pretty good mistakes, there’s no denying it.”
When club leadership discovered that the gun range was on the Perrys’ land, they initially tried to buy the property for $10,000. When the Perrys refused to sell, the club sued them in an effort to take the land through adverse possession, or squatters rights.
The club ended up losing attorneys throughout the course of the lawsuit, and former club president Mark Carbone represented the club in court. Carbone, however, stopped going to the court hearings toward the end of the case, according to Coneys.
Coneys said the club does not have the money to pay the Perrys $650,000. Instead, the club wants to hire an engineer to help come up with a plan for club members to dig up the contaminated soil and store it on club property. That’s not something the Perrys are interested in pursuing, Runyon said.
“The Perrys would absolutely not agree to an arrangement like that. I don’t know why they would take that strange position,” Runyon said.
Coneys said the club is the last of its kind in Peterborough, and it is unlikely another will take its place.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Coneys said.
Peterborough voters adopted a zoning ordinance in 2019 that prohibits any new outdoor gun ranges from being built in town. The club was founded in 1947, before Peterborough adopted any zoning ordinances. The new zoning ordinance does not apply to the club’s existing gun range, assuming the club is able to clear up the legal issues and reopen.