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Zoning board orders Granby rifle range to remain closed indefinitely

  • The Granby Bow and Gun Club, at 85 Chicopee St.

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2017 11:27:20 PM

GRANBY — The Granby Bow and Gun Club’s 1,015-yard rifle range, advertised as the largest of its kind in New England, will remain closed indefinitely, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals ruled on Monday.

The board unanimously rejected the gun club’s appeal of the Select Board’s cease-and-desist order for not having the proper permits and causing a nuisance to neighbors.

Representing the gun club, attorneys Justin Raphaelson and Martha Dean said Tuesday they were upset with what they called the hasty decision at Monday’s meeting in the basement of the Old Carnegie Library.

“We were dissatisfied with the way the zoning board meeting took place,” Raphaelson said. “It was under 10 minutes and there was little to no deliberation so it left us in a state of confusion.”

They argue the board failed to consider the “grandfathered” rights of the rifle range. Shooters have used the half-mile rifle range, they say, since before the town established municipal zoning regulations in 1974, and the clear-cut trees were just upkeep to an existing range.

“Despite reports in the media, there is no ‘new rifle range,’” the club said in a Sept. 12 statement through Dean. “Club members have always set targets at varying distances on the Club’s range.”

At a Nov. 20 appeal hearing at the Junior-Senior High School, attorneys Brian Coyle and Kevin Maltby, representing the Select Board, rebutted this claim and argued that the half-mile rifle range only opened for operation in 2016.

About 100 Granby and Belchertown residents attended the hearing and some questioned why the club was not fined for the zoning violations.

“I’m shocked,” Select Board Chairman Mark Bail said of the Nov. 20 hearing. “In all my legal experiences involved with town things I’ve seen some interesting things, but I’ve never seen anybody lie like their attorney lied. That’s absolutely bizarre.”

After neighbors complained about the increased noise, clear-cut trees, and an unauthorized shooting shed built on club grounds, the town looked into the matter. On Sept. 5, the Select Board ruled the gun club had failed to acquire the proper permits to expand the rifle range, and issued a cease-and-desist order.

“The Select Board, acting as the zoning enforcement agency, issued a cease-and-desist order for the 1,000-yard range that the gun club had started without getting the proper permits,” Bail said in a Sept 6 interview.

To reopen, the club must now seek permission from the Planning Board. Raphaelson said the club is reluctant to apply for special permits through the Planning Board, because it may undercut the club’s ability to “grandfather out” of the 1974 zoning bylaw restrictions.

The Granby Bow and Gun Club, at 85 Chicopee St., has been in operation since 1947.

Robin LaBorde, one of the gun club’s closest neighbors, is a devoted opponent of the rifle range concerned with its environmental impacts. He is especially concerned that runoff from the artificial topsoil, “BioMix,” used to cover the clear-cut area, could pollute local waterways.

“If they put that stuff in, they could affect half the town,” LaBorde said in a Sept 8 interview, “Most of the town uses well water.”

According to Bail, the club issued several no-trespassing orders to neighbors and critics of the club, including LaBorde. Bail also alleges that Andre Mercier, president of the Granby Bow and Gun Club, sold the lumber from the trees felled to extend the range.

“Anybody who said anything negative about their expansion received a no trespassing thing,” Bail said. “It seems to be part of their attorney’s strategy to create this narrative that they were being attacked.”

Dean said the no-trespass orders were issued after some neighbors created safety problems by intruding on the property and were prepared before the town issued the cease-and-desist order.

“The Club is in strong disagreement with the Granby ZBA’s decision and is evaluating its options,” Dean said in an email.

The Granby Gun Club has 20 days from the issuance of a written decision to appeal either in Hampshire Superior Court or the state Land Court.

“I am pretty sure it’s going to go to court,” Bail said.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at

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