Granby gun club activity spurs more noise complaints

GRANBY — Neighbors of the Granby Bow and Gun Club are bringing complaints of loud gunfire and alleged violations of the town’s cease-and-desist order to the town government.

An attorney for the gun club, however, says the club has complied with the order since it was issued last fall and is doing nothing wrong at its property off Chicopee Street.

At a May 22 meeting, Granby and Belchertown residents shared their concerns with the Select Board.

Belchertown resident Jean Whipple said Sunday, May 20, was an extraordinarily loud day. According to the gun club’s website, the club hosted a precision rifle competition that day, charging participants a $40 fee and allowing a maximum .300 Winchester Magnum caliber bullets.

“Sunday was above and beyond even what had been going on even before then,” Whipple said. “It’s very frustrating and I think we’re all really fed up with it, and we look to you gentlemen to help us and to keep the cease-and-desist in place and to keep it upheld.”

Granby’s Select Board began looking into the matter last year after neighbors started complaining about the increased noise, clear-cut trees, and an unauthorized shooting shed built on club grounds. On Sept. 5, 2017, the board ruled the gun club had failed to acquire the proper permits to expand the rifle range and issued a cease-and-desist order.

The Granby gun club has two more competitions scheduled this month. One planned for Sunday advertises targets up to 350 yards, and another on June 24 advertises targets up to 980 yards. In a Thursday statement, the club denied any use of the 1,015-yard upper firing range or shooting shed since the cease-and-desist order was issued on Sept. 6.

“We’re in compliance with the cease-and-desist order and we’re in compliance with local, state and federal laws,” said Justin Raphaelson, an attorney representing the gun club. “That’s all there is to it. There is no restrictions outside the shooter shed and the upper range. Everything we’re doing is within our legal right.”

The club appealed the cease-and-desist order last year. On Dec. 18, the Granby Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected the appeal. In response, the gun club filed a lawsuit against the Granby ZBA through the Boston Land Court, which is in progress.

Violating the spirit

Richard Domeracki of Batchelor Street said he lives 2 miles from the course and can hear gunfire at his home. He explained to the board that the club has two open firing ranges: a covered firing range of 350 yards, and a lower firing range of 500 yards.

“Those are the only two recognized ranges that they say they have,” Domeracki said. “So they are either shooting long range, which, again, long range is the length of 10 football fields. So they are either shooting off-range or they are using the range that they are not supposed to be using.”

In a statement, club representatives said they are neither using the upper firing range nor “overshooting the 500-yard range.”

“The cease-and-desist order only restricts the club from using the shooter shed and upper firing area, which is the concrete pad,” read a statement from the club.

Joseph Chaloux, 61, told the Select Board that he suspects shooters are using part of the 1,015-yard rifle range, and have just moved out of the shooting shed.

“Even if there is an ambiguity in the cease-and-desist order, I think the spirit of the intent is being violated, clearly, and I think any judge would see that,” Chaloux said.

Since the 1,015-yard rifle range opened in the spring of 2017, advertised as the largest of its kind in New England, neighbors have complained about the increased noise, clear-cutting of trees, and potential use of an artificial topsoil called BioMix to cover the area of the range.

However, the club disputes that the long range was anything new.

“Despite reports in the media, there is no ‘new rifle range,’” the club’s attorney said in a statement last year. “Club members have always set targets at varying distances on the club’s range.”

Neighbors upset with the noise have met repeatedly with the Select Board, Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Board of Health to express their concerns.

“The club has been working toward resolving these issues with the town directly and we have been closely working with town boards on assuring the club is in compliance with the cease-and-desist order,” read a statement Thursday from the club.

But some of the neighbors don’t buy the club’s protestations of good faith.

“I don’t think they’re trying to be good neighbors,” Whipple said. “I don’t think they’re trying to work with anyone.”

Checking for violations

According to Granby Police Lt. Kevin O’Grady, the department has received and investigated 36 complaints from neighbors of the club citing loud gunshots since the cease-and-desist order was issued last year. Three complaints have been received since the May 22 meeting, O’Grady said.

“We have not found they were in violation any times we went up there,” O’Grady said. “We go and check to make sure they’re not in violation. If they were, we’d report it.”

Raphaelson said he has not yet received a formal notice from the town of the recent complaints, but has communicated with its legal representation.

“I feel bad for the neighbors whose property abuts the gun club,” Domeracki said in an interview. “Prior to this long range, they’ve never had any complaints about the gun club.”

The club has already incurred about $30,000 in legal fees, according to its website, while the town has spent over $20,000 so far, according to Town Administrator Christopher Martin. At a special Town Meeting in May, voters approved the transfer of $15,000 to the town’s legal fund to cover the accumulating expenses.

“It was our hope that we could satisfactorily address any legitimate complainants,” the club said on its webpage asking for donations for a legal defense fund. “However, we understand that some people will never be satisfied unless the club’s ability to function as an active range is severely curtailed or the club itself is closed. Therefore, we have every intention to vigorously fight for our club and for all who shoot here.”

But some say the club’s activities are affecting their enjoyment of their properties and sense of security in their own homes.

“I feel unsafe on the use of my property,” said Michael Polchlopek, 66, who lives on property abutting the gun club. “Speaking with an environmental police, I was told it would probably be wise not to use a certain section of my land.”

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com.

Author: Going Green

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