Friday, May 24, 2013
CAPE ELIZABETH – The Spurwink Rod and Gun Club and neighbors who are concerned about having a shooting range nearby should hire a consultant to evaluate safety and help settle their dispute, say town councilors.
The Spurwink Rod and Gun Club
2008 File Photo/John Patriquin
Neighbors of the club say they are concerned about noise, stray bullets and other safety issues. But club members say they run a safe shooting range and are adding safety features to modernize it.
The gun club, built in 1956, is in a hollow off Sawyer Road, separated by woods from the Cross Hill neighborhood. The neighborhood, built decades after the gun club, loops behind the club and is home to many families with children.
Concerns about the neighborhood's proximity to the gun club date back to at least the 1990s, when neighbors asked the town to host a meeting to address noise complaints.
Cape Elizabeth isn't the only town in southern Maine where residents have complained about gun clubs in increasingly residential areas. The Falmouth Rod and Gun Club was closed last year to address problems found when police investigated neighbors' longstanding concerns about the lack of berms around shooting areas.
On Wednesday, the Cape Elizabeth Town Council discussed the situation and ultimately suggested that the parties hire a consultant to evaluate the club. Councilors asked both sides to report back on their progress in October.
Council Chairwoman Sara Lennon said the shooting range's proximity to a neighborhood creates an "inherent conflict." Having an objective professional assess the situation would "provide a road map" to addressing the issue, she said.
"You have this kind of non-fit that's nobody's fault," she said. "This isn't a problem that is going to go away."
In a letter to town councilors written in March on behalf of unnamed "concerned citizens," lawyer James Wagner asked the council to schedule a workshop regarding safety conditions around the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club. He said "the most alarming situation relating to the club is that stray bullets have been found in the densely populated neighborhood abutting the club."
He said a bullet was found embedded in the side of a house. Neighbors also are concerned that the range is not fenced in, just posted with signs.
"It is clearly feasible to make the club a safe club," Wagner wrote. "It is time that the town has a discussion surrounding what constitutes a safe gun club and how we can assist the club in achieving that distinction."
Club members say they run a safe shooting range and are modernizing it and adding safety features.
Club President Mark Mayon said club members and neighbors had an "amicable" meeting earlier this year but he didn't get a clear sense of what neighbors want the club to do.
"They're just going to have to take us on faith" that the club is addressing the issues, he said. "We care about our neighbors' input a lot, but we have a plan we've already been rolling out for three years."
The 300-member club is modernizing its facility for the first time in nearly 20 years. It recently installed a sound baffle wall on the shooting shed to direct noise toward the range and will cover its entire shooting line to confine bullets to the shooting area.
Mayon said it may take a couple of years to complete the project.
The club put ballistic shooting sand on the berms that members shoot into, he said, to eliminate the possibility of ricochets. It also increased video surveillance and began requiring members to use PIN numbers to enter the shooting area.
Club members voted to install a fence around the perimeter of the property to address neighbors' concerns about children wandering onto the range. But, Mayon said, the club is holding off on installing the fence until it can be sure it "is enough to placate the neighbors."
Ginny Bishop, who lives near the club, praised its members for their emphasis on safety, but described her concerns about noisy gunshots.
"I have been woken up in the morning in shock, feeling like I'm in a war zone," she said.
The club voted previously to prohibit shooting on Sunday mornings.
"To move forward, we need to let go of what happened in the past," said. Town Councilor Kathy Ray.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: