Bow & Gun Club seeks permits for shooter sheds

  • The Granby Bow & Gun Club, at 85 Chicopee St. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/25/2019 2:13:26 PM

GRANBY — Representatives from the Granby Bow & Gun Club appeared before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals for a public hearing Tuesday night as the club seeks two special permits to update one shooter shed and to construct another.

The club has filed for the permits to construct a new 50-by-16 feet shooter shed in its upper firing area and update an existing 10-by-90 feet shooter shed in the lower firing area with additions such as sound suppression material, which attorneys for the club say will reduce noise heard on neighboring properties and improve safety at the range.

The public hearing took place amid a lawsuit that the club filed against the Zoning Board of Appeals in Land Court in Boston, which Justin Raphaelson, an attorney for the club, said “has been stayed pending the outcome of this permit hearing.” The club filed the lawsuit after the board issued a cease-and-desist order to the organization in September 2017, alleging that the club had violated zoning bylaws and raised significant noise complaints from neighbors of the 85 Chicopee St. property.

The club’s upper and covered firing lines remain shut down, according to its website, although the homepage states members can still shoot at up to about 500 yards elsewhere at the property. A different page on the website states that members can shoot up to 350 yards on the lower shooting line.

The club itself has been operating for more than 70 years, but some residents in Granby and Belchertown say that noise from the club has become intolerable in recent years.

About 45 people attended the hearing, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 8. The board did not come to a decision and will conduct a site visit on May 7.

Martha Dean, also an attorney for the club, said at the hearing that the constructed sheds will come along with no changes to grandfathered usages of the club, but will “provide cover from the elements and some sound mitigation.”

The proposed construction and updates are part of the club’s efforts to be a “good neighbor,” according to Dean. She added that the club is not required to mitigate noise, stating that it has gone “way beyond what it’s required to do by law” in an attempt to accommodate neighbors.

But many neighbors remain displeased, taking to the public hearing to voice their concerns with the proposed developments.

Lenny Desrochers, a 35-year resident of Granby, said that the new shed would create a dangerous precedent by validating the lawful existence of the 1,015-yard line, which the club describes as the longest in New England.

“If you put a building there, it justifies a 1,000-yard range,” Desrochers said, adding that a range of this length is not appropriate for a residential area.

Residents such as Desrochers also raised concerns that the 1,015-yard range is a newer development and should not be protected by a grandfather clause.

Raphaelson, one of the club’s attorneys, disputed these concerns, adding that the idea of the 1,015-yard range being new is “an invented sort of concept.”

“It’s part of the same area that we’ve always been firing from,” Raphaelson said Wednesday. “We don’t have a 1,000-yard range. It’s all part of the same range.”

Other residents said that site plans provided by the club were insufficient. According to Dean, the club had met the amount of information typically required in relation to its land area.

Dean also argued that the safety of the shooting range falls outside of the Zoning Board of Appeals’ authority, describing the issue as a legal risk for the board. Dean added that residents should to take the case to court if they wish to pursue the issue.

The club has the records and funding to begin construction of the shooter shed immediately, said the club’s Vice President Marshall Johnson. He said construction could be completed “ideally in a summer.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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