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October 03. 2013 8:34PM

Newport decision opens door for gun range plans

NEWPORT — A Conservation Commission decision is making way for a possible new gun range in town.

Tuesday night the commission modified a conservation easement of an old 80-acre ash landfill site by taking about 60 acres out of the easement so that it could be developed.

The easement was reduced to 16 acres around the actual landfill site so that it could remain protected, Town Manager Paul Brown said Thursday.

“We won’t be selling it. We will be approaching Sturm, Ruger to see if they would like to lease the land for the creation of a firing range,” Brown said. “We can’t sell it. We need to monitor the land fill until 2031.”

The project would put part of the land back on the tax rolls, Brown said, adding any improvement to the land would also increase its property tax assessment.

Brown plans to meet with Ruger officials soon to discuss the issue, he said.

“It’s an economic issue. We would like to give Ruger this tool they need to continue to succeed in the town and the region,” Brown said.

In May, gun maker Sturm, Ruger & Company Inc. and the Mountain View Gun Club pulled their plans for a shooting range on John Stark Highway, routes 11 and 103, citing the financial costs of the project.
 
Last year, the Mountain View Gun Club received a special exception from town zoning laws to establish the outdoor recreational shooting facility on the 67-acre lot.

The gun club, which used to have a shooting range in town, has been without a shooting range for many years. Sturm, Ruger said it planned to acquire the property to establish the shooting range and then transfer ownership to the gun club.
 
The outdoor shooting facility would have been for the gun club members for recreation, competition and instruction in safe gun handling. Ruger also planned to use the shooting range for product testing.

However, residents who expressed concerns about noise pollution and environmental contamination banded together to form the Newport Safety Coalition, and fought the proposed project at zoning and planning board meetings.
 
Then in March the Newport Safety Coalition filed two appeals of the Planning Board’s final approval of the project, one with the town Zoning Board of Adjustments and the second with Sullivan County Superior Court, alleging that the Planning Board failed to follow its own procedure during the final site plan review on Feb. 19 at which the gun range was approved.
 
Brown approached Sturm, Ruger about the landfill site soon after it pulled the original project plans.

“I believe they will be interested,” he said Thursday.

mpierce@newstote.com


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