PROSPECT — The Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to extend the hours at the Prospect Gun Club’s shooting range for the second time in recent years came as a surprise to many neighbors who voiced their displeasure with the move last week.
“The noise is outrageous. … There is a noise problem,” resident Brian Evans, who lives on Tress Road, told the commission Aug. 1. “I don’t know what it is, but nobody seems to want to admit it. So, something more has to be done to prevent the noise from annoying the neighbors.”
In July, the commission approved extending the hours at the shooting range, which is located on town property behind the public works garage at 211 Cheshire Road.
Now, the summer seasonal hours are 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Wednesdays were added as well as an extra hour until 7 p.m. The extended hours also allow for an extra hour on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and shooting on Memorial Day and Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
In the winter months, the only change was an additional three hours on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is no shooting on weekdays, with the exception of the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., which didn’t change.
In 2015, the club approached to commission to extend the hours. The commission later agreed to do so after the club took measures to address the noise, including building a concrete wall of blocks, commonly known as “mafia blocks,” and installing insulation and fiberglass sound absorbing material to the firing range.
Residents who live nearby said the measures haven’t made a difference and questioned whether a sound mitigation plan required by the commission was done properly.
“I live right up the hill and I can tell you it’s no quieter now than it ever was. In fact, it seems nosier,” said Thomas Dellavalle, who lives on Tress Road, adding it is sometimes sounds like cannons are going off repeatedly.
Prospect Gun Club Vice President Dan Semeraro said the caliber of rifles shot at the range range from .22 caliber to .50 caliber muzzle-loaded rifles. He presented a sound level report to the commission that showed the noise from traffic was 85 decibels while the noise from the range was about 65 decibels.
Residents said the noise from traffic and gunshots are different, saying they can’t hear the traffic but can hear the gunshots.
Neighbors also raised concerns that the public didn’t know about the additional hours being requested last month because there wasn’t a public notice or public hearing.
The agenda for the July 18 meeting lists Jerry Williams, the president of the gun club, under public participation. There is no mention of possibly extending the hours. While some members raised concerns last month, the commission unanimously approved the extended hours. The commission felt the matter didn’t need to go to a public hearing since the club met the requirements for the previous expansion.
Donald Reilly, who lives on Tress Road, felt the commission breached its duties in regards to the intent of the zoning regulations, including those that state the commission is to protect and conserve the character of all parts of town and aid in maintaining and sustaining property value.
Reilly also questioned the bias of the commission. Chairman Gil Graveline is a past member of the gun club and Gregory Ploski, an alternate on the commission who wasn’t at last week’s meeting, is a member of the club.
“The (Planning and) Zoning Commission not only chooses to ignore our needs but has breached the intent of the zoning regulations,” said Reilly, who vowed to take the matter to court if the extended hours continue.
Several residents said they bought their homes knowing that the range was nearby but were willing to accept it because the hours were minimal at the time. They raised concerns that the incremental expansion of hours will continue.
“Planning and zoning commissions have exceedingly powerful control over people’s lives. Their decisions must be carefully thought through,” said Alice Magnarella, who lives on Tress Road. “Those little words ‘in the opinion of the commission’ can build up communities and they can destroy them too. They can ruin people’s lives and they can destroy property values. But they also can correct things.”
Magnarella requested that the commission revisit its decision.
The commission took no action on the issue and didn’t discuss it further past public participation. In order to revisit the decision, the commission would have to rescind its vote from July.
Following the meeting, Graveline said he expects Semeraro will bring residents’ concerns back to the club to discuss, adding there’s a lot of emotion involved in the issue.