NEWPORT — Planners told potential applicants for a gun range on John Stark Highway that if they return with a site plan application, they would need to address traffic, sound, safety, environmental and wetlands concerns.
About 50 people turned out for the conceptual hearing for the shooting range proposed by Ruger Company Inc. and the Mountain View Gun Club.
The potential applicants have not formally filed a site plan application with the Planning Board, but drew strong opposition this spring during the zoning board approval process.
On March 29, the Mountain View Gun Club received a special exception from town zoning laws to establish the outdoor recreational shooting facility on a 67-acre lot on John Stark Highway/Routes 103 and 11.
However, the approval was hotly contested by some residents and abutters, who say the gun range raises noise, traffic safety and environmental concerns and would lower property values.
A group of residents and business owners calling themselves the Newport Safety Coalition have retained attorneys and requested a rehearing of the zoning board approval, which was denied.
Last week the Planning Board allowed residents to ask questions regarding issues that would surround the site plan application.
James Laboe, the attorney representing the potential applicants, said he was surprised by the number of people who approached him after the meeting.
“It seemed like most folks were in favor of the range,” he said.
According to testimony at zoning board hearings, sportsmen and women in the area practice in their back yards for lack of a nearby shooting range, he said.
“Sportsmen and sportswomen are some of the most environmentally conscious people. They want to protect the environment and wildlife. While at the same time they are looking for a safe place to either practice their shooting or to learn how to shoot,” Laboe said.
At the conceptual hearing, Laboe said the gun range would follow the “best practices” set out by the National Shooting Sports Foundation Manual, gun range standards endorsed by the Environmental Protection Administration and state Department of Environmental Services.
The shooting range would also be designed by nationally recognized shooting range designer Scott Kranz, who specializes in noise abatement, he said.
Laboe said now that the applicants have met with the Planning Board, they can guide Kranz through the design process, which will include four shotgun/skeet ranges and three handgun/rifle ranges.
“We wanted to make sure what their concerns were before dispatching Mr. Kranz to do what he needs to do,” Laboe said. “The range would be state of the art. I think it’s sufficient to say when it is constructed, it will be one of the safest gun ranges in the New Hampshire. If not the Northeast,” Laboe said.
Laboe said a site plan application for the shooting range could be submitted as early as this summer.
Safety coalition members have decided not to appeal the rehearing request denial in Superior Court as yet and plan to participate in the Planning Board process, said attorney Michael B. Fisher, who along with the Law Firm of Rebecca A. Wagner in West Lebanon is representing the residents.
The Mountain View Gun Club has been without a shooting range for many years. Sturm, Ruger hopes to acquire the property to establish the shooting range and then transfer ownership to the gun club.