Gun noise: Neighbors’ offer to buy silence rebuffed

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
They want to buy silence.
A group of Waterford neighbors, fed up after years of “ongoing gun noise invasion” from a local shooting range, is now offering to pay the Waterford Fish and Game Association to stay closed on a specified day or days.
“What would it cost to buy the privilege to use our properties one, two, or three days a week without the constant anxiety of being “shot” (bombarded) with gunfire at any moment?” asks a Dec. 18 letter to the club from John Howe, spokesperson for the Waterford Noise Abatement Coalition.
Howe said last week he has not received a response to the letter, which was sent to Club President Peter Pacent Sr. as well as the town of Waterford and Scott Cole, Oxford County Commissioner. The letter was resent on Dec. 27.
Pacent said Wednesday the club does not plan to respond to the letter. He said the club has taken steps to abate the noise by building an extension to the roof over its rifle range, and has plans to construct a similar roof over one of its handgun ranges.
The correspondence is the latest salvo by Howe, who has been fighting the gun club since 2007, when its facilities at 819 Norway Road (Route 118) were expanded to include a new clubhouse, two new pistol ranges and additional firing lines. In December 2013, the Coalition threatened to sue the town for failing to require the expanded use to be subjected to a site plan review.
The lawsuit has not been filed. An earlier lawsuit, by John and Debbie Howe, was withdrawn. In 2012, Howe won a favorable ruling from the Oxford County Board of Assessment Review, overturning a denied tax abatement for loss of property value. However, OXBAR denied a similar appeal by Howe’s daughter the following year.
In the letter, Howe, who lives near the range on McIntyre Road, calls the offer to pay the club “a last-ditch effort to regain at least a small portion of the peace and quiet we enjoyed for many prior years.”
The club has made sound-buffering improvements to their rifle range and other concessions, such as a ban on use of automatic firearms without a suppressor on Sundays, and no Sunday shooting before 9 a.m. or a half-hour after sunset. They also agreed to shut down the range when a funeral is in progress at Pulpit Rock Cemetery, and to allow only weekday use by area police departments for training purposes.
But, the fact remains that the shooting range is open seven days a week. From Monday to Saturday, the range hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or a half-hour after sunset, whichever comes first.
It’s not just neighbors who are upset over the gun noise, Howe said in the letter. He said there have been numerous complaints from cemetery visitors and sports groups that use the town’s athletic field next to the cemetery.
“We propose to financially contribute to your association to not use your facility on specific days starting in 2015,” states the letter. He said the 2012 work the club did to enclose the rifle stands is inadequate because it did nothing to reduce noise from skeet shooting operations and only lowered decibel levels minimally.
The coalition’s letter states that if the club were willing to accept money to take a day off from shooting, “you could use these funds to build enclosures that work.”
Howe said he and other neighbors plan to file tax abatement requests with the county this year.

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