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February 21. 2013 8:26PM

Newport shooting range foes eye court challenge

NEWPORT - The Planning Board's unanimous approval on Tuesday of the Sturm, Ruger & Company Inc. and Mountain View Gun Club shooting range on John Stark Highway is likely to be challenged in court, said Lebanon attorney Michael Fisher, who represents a group opposing the range.

The Mountain View Gun Club has received a special exception from town zoning laws to establish the outdoor recreational shooting facility on a 67-acre lot. The club, which used to have a shooting range in town, has been without a range for many years.

Gun manufacturer Ruger plans to acquire the property and then transfer ownership to the gun club.

The outdoor shooting facility would be for the 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.

Tuesday's hearing included testimony from residents opposed to the gun range and two experts brought in by the Newport Safety Coalition, which was formed to oppose the gun range and is represented by Fisher and the law firm of Rebecca Wagner in West Lebanon, to give expert testimony on the coalition's environmental and noise impacts, Fisher said Thursday.

In the end, the five members of the

Planning Board on the site plan review unanimously approved the gun range on several conditions; one prohibits shooting on federal holidays and on all but six Sundays a year.

Fisher said over the past couple of weeks support and membership of the Coalition has been "snowballing," and Tuesday's decision has only galvanized the group's resolve.

A decision will be made soon as to their next step, he said.

"We do still have administrative avenues open to us. . But I don't think it will be much longer before we end up in the state courts," Fisher said.

Laboe said plans for the project are now waiting on approval from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

The gun range would use EPA best practices to prevent environmental impact such as lead from discharged ammunition seeping into ground water, he said.

The range would also have several serveral safety features, he said.

Ruger is proposing the safest gun range in the state, he said.

Ruger had longed searched for the best site for this proposed gun range, Laboe said and in the end found this property that sits in the industrial zone.

The town has no noise ordinance but Ruger wants to be responsible, Laboe said.

"Ruger's motto is 'arms makers for responsible citizens.' That really captures the essence of their corporate culture and how they went about approaching this project," he said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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