NEWPORT — About 50 people turned out for a Newport Planning Board conceptual hearing at Newport Middle High School Tuesday night for a proposed gun range on John Stark Highway.
The applicants for the project — Ruger & Company Inc. and the Mountain View Gun Club — have not formally filed a site plan application with the board, but drew strong opposition this spring during the Newport Zoning Board approval process.
The planning board did not have to take public comment since it was only a conceptual hearing but the public could raise any possible concerns the board would handle if and when a site plan application is presented.
Resident Nancy Janchim got off topic when she told Ruger and gun club representatives to re-locate the proposed gun range to a closed business.
“Lowe’s is empty. Buy Lowes,” she said.
Her comment came in reaction to Ruger vice president Tom Sullivan’s response to why Ruger was not proposing an in-door range, saying “That would be a pretty big building.”
Ruger is proposing to build a gun range on 67 acres on John Stark Highway with four gunshot/skeet shooting ranges and three handgun/rifle ranges.
Gun club members would use the ranges. It would also be a test site for Ruger.
“If I go online, I see machine guns being developed by Ruger,” said Linda Billingsley. “We’re all afraid of the testing and amount of information we’re not getting.”
Ruger attorney James Loboe said the range would met national safety and environmental standards, would have signs to warn people from walking onto the property and would face away from the highway.
“Turn it around, point it at the highway if it’s so safe instead of at my nighbors,” Billingsley said.
Sullivan said fencing the property would be expensive, which upset some residents.
Maureen Dunham said children may not heed the signs. “This is a safety issue.”
Many of the residents do not abut the property, but are nearby and said they would be affected by the noise.
Planning board member David Burnham said all noise issues would have to be addressed in the site plan review process since state law precludes noise complaints of approved gun ranges.
Loboe said feedback from the board would help his clients form its site plan application.
On March 29, 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 on John Stark Highway/routes 103 and 11.
The outdoor shooting facility would be for recreation, competition, instruction in safe gun handling, and product development by the Ruger Company. It is expected to bring shooters into Newport for general use of the facility as well as for scheduled events such as competitions.
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Meghan Pierce may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.