CAPE ELIZABETH — The Cape Elizabeth Town Council voted Monday night to table a final decision on the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club’s application to operate, but indicated it would approve the application to resume live firing at its Oct. 14 meeting if the club can guarantee 100 percent shot containment.

More than 70 people attended the hour-long public hearing, which grew heated at times as roughly equal numbers of supporters and opponents voiced their views on the club’s operation at 1250 Sawyer Road.

After the vote to table the decision, Town Manager Mike McGovern noted that parties on both sides of the issue had a right to know how the council felt, prompting each councilor to weigh in with a few comments.

While acknowledging that balancing the concerns of the neighborhood with the rights of gun club members is a challenge, all said they intend to approve the gun club’s application to operate on Oct. 14, provided that the club can demonstrate to the code enforcement officer that all the shots fired on the club’s 25-yard target range can be contained.

“All Cape Elizabeth citizens have a right to feel safe, but I also feel the gun club has a right to exist,” said Councilor Jessica L. Sullivan.

Cape Elizabeth residents and gun club proponents turned out Monday to talk about the future of the town's gun range. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Cape Elizabeth residents and gun club proponents turned out Monday to talk about the future of the town’s gun range. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

McGovern said potential home-buyers as well as gun club members needed the information before they make further investments. The gun club, which has operated in the same location since 1955, has been making improvements to its target range to ensure the public’s safety, but needs at least another month before the work is completed, said Councilor Caitlin Jordan, who serves on the Cape Elizabeth Firing Range Committee.

Jordan said the club’s plans to reopen its 50- and 100-yard target ranges will have to be phased in over time, meaning it could take months before they are approved to be 100 percent contained.

In the meantime, live firing at the gun club will remain suspended until at least the council’s October meeting. In July, Police Chief Neil Williams ordered the club to suspend live target shooting after an independent expert found that the facility was unsafe for club members and neighbors.

Rick LaRosa, an architect from Kennesaw, Georgia, conducted an independent safety evaluation of the shooting range. LaRosa, an expert endorsed by the National Rifle Association, found a variety of safety and security deficiencies, including a lack of structures to prevent stray bullets from leaving the property, and inadequate protection to keep club members from being struck by accidental discharges. The club also doesn’t do enough to keep nonmembers from entering the 18-acre facility.

LaRosa’s findings alarmed neighbors, many of whom attended Monday’s hearing.

“Some of these rounds can travel 3 miles,” said Cross Hill Road resident William Morris. “I’d like to know how many children and grandchildren live within the 3-mile radius.”

Dan Price, another Cross Hill Road resident, said he has heard that bullets fired from the range have become lodged in nearby homes.

“The gun club doesn’t seem to care one bit about the safety of our children,” Price said.

Kathleen Kent speaks at Monday's Cape Elizabeth council meeting. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Kathleen Kent speaks at Monday’s Cape Elizabeth council meeting. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Kathleen Kent told the council that she moved to Cape Elizabeth in 1992 and she was well aware that there was a gun club nearby.

“I still don’t understand why people want to live next to a gun club, and want to shut it down,” Kent said.

Tammy Walter, president of the gun club, said the club began installing overhead baffles on the shooting range about two weeks ago to prevent stray bullets from leaving the facility.

“It far exceeds anything our peers in the state have to install for safety reasons,” Walter said. She also accused her neighbors of having an agenda.

“They have one goal. They don’t want a gun club to exist in their backyard, and that is just not fair,” Walter said.

Monday’s meeting stemmed from a new shooting range ordinance approved by the town in March 2014. The ordinance established the Firing Range Committee, which recently determined that the shooting range was operating safely under state and local laws. Committee members recommended that the range be licensed to operate.

The Spurwink Rod & Gun Club was established off outer Sawyer Road in 1955 when the nearest neighbors of the shooting range were sprawling farms. But over time, upscale homes were built near the club, including the Cross Hill Road neighborhood with homes in the $500,000 to $800,000 price range. Residents have complained about noise and say some houses have been hit by stray bullets.