Neighbors oppose gun range

NAUGATUCK — Close to 50 neighbors came to the Zoning Commission’s Feb. 16 hearing to protest a proposed indoor shooting range on Webb Road.

Many criticized the plan, saying it presented health and safety risks and would bring traffic and unwelcome development to a peaceful residential neighborhood.

“I am in no way opposed to facilities like this somewhere in our town,” Marcia Puc of 17 Webb Road said. “Find another space.”

The land where the range would be, about 32 acres near the Middlebury line owned by Roger Spinelli of Shelton, is zoned for light industrial use, but is surrounded by many single-family homes and property zoned for residential use.

The commission held the hearing to consider whether to add indoor shooting and archery ranges to a list of recreational facilities allowed in a heavy industrial zone, and then whether to change regulations to permit such facilities in a light industrial zone, where they are currently not allowed.

If the change is approved, Spinelli said he will develop a site plan that addresses residents’ concerns.

“We’re not looking to make profits at the expense of people,” Spinelli said.

Neighbors said the 42,000-square-foot shooting range would go against the character of the neighborhood. The Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley has recommended rezoning some light industrial areas, such as the one containing Spinelli’s land, as business or residential, some pointed out.

“I don’t see that there’s a possibility of hiding a 42,000-square-foot building with landscaping,” Samuel Landsman of 220 Webb Road said.

Residents of Webb Road said the street is narrow and dangerous in the winter and could not accommodate the traffic that such a facility would bring.

Chester Cornacchia, chairman of the Naugatuck Economic Development Commission, said many outside organizations had documented the dangers of airborne lead in indoor shooting ranges and noted that his subdivision drinks well water that comes from Spinelli’s land.

“I’m a little troubled that in this day and age we can have the gall to accept an application that introduces poisonous substances in a clearly residential area,” Cornacchia said.

The shooting range has a lot of support from people, including law enforcement officers, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting because a regulation change was the issue at hand and not the specific site plan, said Spinelli’s real estate consultant James L. Cormier.

The commission will vote on the text change next month.

Residents felt the commission should not change the regulations in the face of so much opposition.

“If you go against the grain and you go for a project like this, it destroys the community, because all of a sudden everyone feels helpless, and next time we want to come and fight for a good cause, we’re not going to be here,” said James Ayash of 69 Graham Ridge Road.