Cape Elizabeth council grants gun club's 'hardship' request for insurance reduction

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Monday reduced insurance requirements for the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club.

Councilors decreased the Sawyer Road club’s coverage from $3 million to $1 million. The club asked for the reduction through a hardship request.

The town’s shooting range ordinance, which went into effect April 2014, requires a minimum of $3 million per occurrence in liability insurance. The requirement went into effect when the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club’s license was approved last October.

Club President Tammy Walter on Monday told councilors the club’s annual insurance premiums increased from $4,200 to $7,100, which members could not afford.

Members of the public who spoke against the hardship request, saying it’s important for the club to have as much as insurance as possible in case an accident occurs. They also said the club should make members pay for the increase.

Walter said membership fees, which are $75 per year, have increased every year for the last five years, and it would be unreasonable to continue increasing them.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan said the club’s request was reasonable.

Councilor Jamie Garvin was the only councilor who voted against the request, saying he would rather rewrite the insurance requirement section of the ordinance.

“I’m very stuck on the notion of hardship,” he said. “I’m not comfortable with the idea that this is a hardship exception.”

Town Attorney Thomas Leahy guided councilors through the shooting range ordinance, which lays out eight standards for hardship. One standard is that the hardship was a result of the ordinance itself and was not self-induced by the club.

Councilor Sara Lennon said she’d like to see the club use the savings from the reduced premium to continue making improvements to the range. She said improvements would reduce the chance that coverage would be needed.

Former club President Mark Mayone after the meeting said the savings would be used to make upgrades.

“It puts money in our pockets right now so we can do our upgrades right now,” he said. “It’s construction season and we want to do this now.”

Mayone said the club will be renovating its 50-meter range this summer.  A “no blue sky” containment system was put in place late last year over the 25-yard range, and there are plans to do the same on the longer ranges.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.