Neighbors of Granby Gun Club uneasy about scheduled rifle match this weekend

  • The Granby Bow and Gun Club on Chicopee Street in Granby.

Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2018 12:16:11 AM

GRANBY — A long-range precision rifle match scheduled at the Granby Bow and Gun Club on Sunday has neighbors wondering whether the competition will violate a cease-and-desist order the town issued against the club last fall.

The club advertised the upcoming match on its website with targets up to 980 yards away, despite its largest allowable range being 500 yards.

The club was issued a cease-and-desist order in September for its longer, 1,105-yard range — advertised as the largest of its kind in New England — by the town after neighbors’ complaints of excessive noise, documented violations of wetlands protection laws and alleged zoning violations.

Granby  Police Sgt. Gary Poehler said the department did not receive information about the tournament this weekend, but would respond to the location if called.

“The cease-and-desist says they cannot use that long range at all,” Poehler said. “If we get called we’ll go up there. Every time we’ve been called nothing has been substantiated.”

When asked how the gun club could shoot 980-yard targets with a cease-and-desist order on the gun range, Poehler said, “They have a lot of land.”

The gun club’s attorney, Justin Raphaelson, said that Sunday’s tournament was still on.

Earlier this month, the club in a statement denied using the 1,015-yard upper firing range or shooting shed since the order was issued. The club has two shorter ranges that are still in use.

“There is no restrictions outside the shooter shed and the upper range,” Raphaelson told the Gazette on June 7. “Everything we’re doing is within our legal right.”

Some neighbors aren’t convinced. A Granby resident of over 30 years, Elaine Lafleur said she only started hearing gunfire from the club, over a mile away from her home, two years ago after acres of trees were cleared. She now leads the Granby Belchertown Concerned Citizens Group, organizing neighbors affected by the gun club’s recent activities.

“One day it sounded like it was a war zone in my backyard, and I’m a good mile from the club,” Lafleur said. “We never had this problem before, and I’ve been in this town a long time. I raised my kids here.”

She and other members of the citizens group are frustrated by town government’s lack of response to their concerns.

However, Lafleur said the noise issue is secondary to documented wetlands violations and environmental hazards posed by the potential use of Biomix on club grounds. Biomix is an artificial topsoil made from processed paper mill and sewage waste. The state Department of Environmental Protection fined the club for the violations.

“We’re not all nuts. We want them to be good neighbors. We want them to have a business. I am pro Second Amendment,” Lafleur said.

In a May 10 letter to various town offices, club president Andre Mercier outlined the ways they are working to mitigate noise issues, improve safety and security, and seek a resolution. He said the club has not violated the town’s cease-and-desist order, and is in compliance with all zoning regulations.

“There have been numerous false complaints to the police and to the Town that the Club violated the C&D order by shooting under the covered line or from the upper shooting area,” Mercier wrote. “We have not and the Granby Police Department’s call records confirm that ALL of the numerous complaints filed against the club since the issuance of the C&D were false/unfounded.”

According to Granby Police Lt. Kevin O’Grady, the department has received and investigated at least 36 complaints from neighbors of the club since the cease-and-desist order was issued last year. They did not find the club in violation any of those times, he said.  

Members of the Concerned Citizens Group think the club is somehow avoiding being caught.

“The minute they see the cop car they’re stopping what they’re doing,” Lafleur said.

According to the gun club’s website, Sunday’s tournament is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with participants each paying a $40 fee. After the Gazette attempted to reach the club, the sentence advertising 980-yard targets was removed from the website. According to the website, future rifle competitions will take place on July 14 and July 22.

The club appealed the cease-and-desist order last year, and on Dec. 18, the Granby Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected the appeal. In response the gun club filed a lawsuit against the Granby ZBA through the Boston Land Court, which is still ongoing.

Town Administrator Christopher Martin did not respond to repeated calls for comment for this story. At prior Select Board meetings, Martin expressed his concern that the town cannot afford the ongoing litigation against the club in Boston Land Court.

The town has spent at least $20,000 in legal fees so far, and at a special Town Meeting in May approved the transfer of $15,000 to the town’s legal fund to cover the accumulating expenses.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com.


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