By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
BEACON FALLS — The Planning and Zoning Commission Sept. 24 unanimously approved an amendment to the zoning regulations to allow indoor gun shooting ranges in industrial park districts.
The change will go into effect after attorney Vincent Marino reviews the language of the text amendment, according to commission Chairman Kevin McDuffie. The zoning regulations presently don’t allow indoor shooting ranges.
The text change paves the way for a proposed indoor shooting range on a vacant, 2.3-acre parcel on Lancaster Drive.
Lee Nemeth, general manager of Kolga LLC at 65 Lancaster Drive, wants to build a shooting range on land he owns at 57 Lancaster Drive. Nemeth previously proposed a 12,000-to-15,000-square-foot shooting range with three to four classrooms and a retail store to sell guns and ammunition and lounge area.
Nemeth will have to get a site plan approval for the proposed indoor shooting range.
Nemeth said last week he plans to build the shooting range in spring. The proposed business is part of a family endeavor, he said.
Dan Nemeth, Lee Nemeth’s son, said he and his father haven’t submitted an application because they had to wait for text amendment.
“It’s comforting that the town seems to want it and there’s a desire for it,” Dan Nemeth said.
McDuffie said the range will be good for the town, adding he’s only heard positive responses from the community about the plan and no opposition.
The commission’s vote followed a hearing on the text change at the Beacon Falls Senior Center. A hearing on the amendment was held in February, but it was deemed null and void due to a legal ad for the hearing not being published beforehand in a newspaper.
“It was a long journey, unfortunately,” Lee Nemeth said.
William McCasland, a retired Beacon Falls police officer for 21 years, said in the current state of affairs there are many first-time gun owners and a nearby shooting range would get a lot of use.
“We have a lot of gun owners,” McCasland said. “We need to have responsibility. We need to teach the responsibility, and a gun range is probably a really good way to start off.”
Oxford resident Brian Blakeman, who has been a police officer in town 29 years and is a NRA instructor, addressed the commission as a resident. He said people who take his classes now tell him they never thought about owning a gun eight months ago.
“People are really starting to think about and planning for protecting themselves,” Blakeman said. “I’m a firm believer, if you’re going to have a gun for personal protection, you need to be proficient with that gun.”