Club seeks more time to shoot

Residents and Prospect Gun Club members begin to pack into Town Hall during a public hearing on a proposal to extend the hours of the club’s shooting range on Sept. 2. –LUKE MARSHALL
Residents and Prospect Gun Club members begin to pack into Town Hall during a public hearing on a proposal to extend the hours of the club’s shooting range on Sept. 2. –LUKE MARSHALL

PROSPECT — The Prospect Gun Club wants to expand the hours at the shooting range, and neighbors are fired up about it.

Prospect Gun Club President Jerry Williams has filed an application with the Planning and Zoning Commission to extend the hours at the range at 221 Cheshire Road, which is near the Prospect VFW Post 8075 and the Department of Public Works garage.

Those for and against the proposal filled Town Hall Sept. 2 for a public hearing on the application.

Many neighbors complained about the noise from the gun range and argued that expanding the hours will only make it worse.

“For decades I have put up with the loudest shooting from the rifle range from late Friday afternoon, all day Saturday and Sunday mornings. This area of the town is the noisiest in the entire town,” Boardman Kathan said. “For Christians, the day of Sunday is the Sabbath, a day for rest. But the peace and quiet is shattered by gunfire in the morning. It sounds like a war zone.”

The shooting range’s current hours are from 4 until 6 p.m., or half an hour before sunset, on Fridays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., or half an hour before sunset, on Saturdays; and 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. on Sunday. The club is closed on Easter Sunday.

The club is seeking to expand its hours to include 4 to 6 p.m., or half an hour before sunset, on Thursdays; and three additional hours on Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, the club wants to open the range from 12 to 4 p.m. on Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Williams said the club is trying to accommodate a rise in members over the past few years. The club has 300 members, including 200 Prospect residents. The club saw a 40 percent rise in membership in 2014, he said. For the first time in over 30 years, he added, the club has a waiting list for members.

However, opponents of the proposal said the extended hours will negatively impact their quality of life.

Beverly Curello, who lives directly next to the range, said the constant gun fire scares her grandchildren.

“From Friday night until the end of the day on Sunday it sounds like a war zone in my yard. By the end of the weekend the sound of gunshots have permeated my brain. I try not to stay home on the weekends and take a break from the gunfire. My grandchildren do not visit during these hours because the shooting scares them,” Curello said in a letter to the commission.

Kathan was also worried about people being allowed to hike in the woods behind the range.

“The deed donating the land to the [Prospect] Land Trust states that hikes on the trails in that part of the land are not allowed when the rifle range is in operation,” Kathan said. “Sunday afternoon is the only time hikers are allowed on that land, and that will stop if the hours are extended.”

Prospect Gun Club Range Officer Eric Koch said the club needs the extended hours to help people practice their shooting skills.

“Self-defense requires proficiency in fire arms handling, which can only be accomplished through practice. There are people here tonight who would deny us that right by claiming the extension of range hours would adversely impact their rights to quite,” Koch said.

Koch said the expanded hours would not violate the town’s ordinances regarding noise, and suggested the reason people are complaining is due to their selfishness.

“Do the proper thing,” he told the commission. “Approve the extended hours with no associated cost for the enjoyment of many instead of denying the request to appease the few objectors who would deny the majority just because of their self-interest.”

Residents also raised concerns about the safety at the range. However, Mayor Robert Chatfield said, there has never been an incident regarding safety at the range.

“We have had no problems. As a neighbor, though, I would ask for a little compromise and that would be on the Sunday hours,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield suggested the club only have extended Sunday hours between Nov. 1 and approximately April 15.

The commission made no decision on the application last week. The public hearing was continued until Sept. 16.