BY MIA SANSONE
PROSPECT — More than 80 people spoke at a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing March 8 regarding proposed text amendments that would delete gun ranges from the definition of a recreation facility and delete outdoor firing ranges as a special-permit use in all zoning districts.
If approved, this action would not affect the application from Prospect Gun Club, which is looking to build a 36-stall firing range and clubhouse off Route 69.
Most of those who spoke said they are in favor of the amendment to preserve Prospect’s small-town atmosphere.
“The majority of the people who would like to change the zoning regulations are not against the Second Amendment. The proposed regulation change is for the people living in Prospect so they cannot have anxiety or live through sleepless nights,” said Al Demagistris, a town resident.
Most residents opposed to the amendment are Prospect Gun Club members who feel it is directly targeted at their club’s application.
Martha Dean, an attorney representing Prospect Gun Club, discussed similar cases to the Prospect amendment discussion, notably Ezell v. City of Chicago, which was settled in 2017. Chicago was challenged about its gun bans and that it was infringing on the Second Amendment. The case was brought to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and resulted in Chicago having to allow gun ranges.
“(The amendment) being proposed can’t be done by this town and if it is done, then it will be subject to enormous legal challenges,” Dean said.
The hearing was to continue March 15.
On Feb. 15, the Planning and Zoning Commission accepted the application from the club to build a new facility at 178 New Haven Road, which is in the south end of town near the Bethany line. If approved, Prospect Gun Club would move from its 100-yard range on land behind the town garage, 221 Cheshire Road.
A hearing on the application is set for April 5 at 7:05 p.m. at Prospect Community Center. A virtual hearing is scheduled for April 10.
The 68-acre New Haven Road property is owned by Peter Visockis, Victor Visockis and Victor Visockis Jr. The club would operate seven days a week with the range open from 9 a.m. to dusk and the clubhouse from 8 a.m. to noon.
Residents of the neighborhood near the proposed site said they are worried about the noise level from the gun range.
“People move here for the quiet,” said Kate Czarnecki, a resident on Hemlock Road, about a mile away from the proposed range. “It is a desirable, nice, quiet neighborhood.”
Residents also have concerns that the value of their properties would decrease due to the range’s proximity to their homes.
Jerry Williams, president of Prospect Gun Club, has said the club is aware of these concerns.
“We’ve spent the last year plus having a professional help us design the range to meet the criteria the town requires,” he said.