CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Wednesday conditionally approved a license for the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club.
The condition is that club members can’t resume shooting on the 25-yard range until it has 100 percent shot containment.
“I feel so happy and thankful,” Tammy Walter, club president, said after the meeting. “I don’t even know what to say. This is the happiest I’ve been in years.”
Councilors originally tabled the vote in a September meeting after deciding they wanted more information. On Oct. 14 they unanimously approved the conditional license 6-0; Councilor Jamie Wagner was absent.
“I’m so thrilled to have the council’s support,” Walter said.
The range has been shut down since July, when a report by safety evaluator Rick LaRosa resulted in Police Chief Neil Williams suspending live fire at the Sawyer Road club.
The town hired LaRosa as part of the new licensing process. Although the club has existed for more than 60 years, it had to register and obtain a license under an ordinance enacted in early 2014.
LaRosa in August said the club’s current design plan is inadequate. He said it was possible bullets could leave the range, which has been a fear of the Cross Hill neighbors living behind the club.
Residents of the neighborhood have complained about safety, saying they’ve found bullets in the sides of their houses. Although there was no proof of where the bullets came from, the neighbors’ concerns were one of the reasons the Town Council started the licensing process.
The club has been redesigning its range, using a plan designed by LaRosa, and is putting in an overhead shot containment system, which members estimate will be done in December.
“The gun club has made, and is making, good faith efforts for compliance,” Councilor Jessica Sullivan said Wednesday night.
When the club is done making improvements, the town’s code enforcement officer, Ben McDougal, will inspect the range and determine if it demonstrates 100 percent shot containment. For now, the club is focusing on its 25-yard range and will later work on its 50- and 100-yard ranges.
If approved by McDougal, only the shorter range would reopen because the longer ranges wouldn’t yet have 100 percent shot containment. Last month, councilors said the conditional license will apply to the whole range because they don’t want the club to have to come back for re-licensing when the other ranges are done.
On Wednesday McDougal reassured councilors and the public that he, along with Williams and various inspectors and experts, will make sure the range is 100 percent safe before it can be reopened.
“I am confident that we will get the product that gives us 100 percent shot containment,” he said.
Even though several people at Wednesday’s meeting asked councilors not to grant the conditional license, Council Chairwoman Kathy Ray said councilors throughout the process did a good job, and considered both sides of the situation.
“We cannot possibly satisfy everyone in this room, but I think the council has done a good job trying to run this down the middle,” she said.
Some of the councilors on Wednesday spoke of the long hours put in over many years of working on the gun club ordinance and the licensing process, and Councilor Jim Walsh applauded the current council for going to “a place where no one’s wanted to go for a very long time.”
“I believe we’re going to look back on this and say it was worth the hard work,” he said.
Spurwink Rod & Gun Club President Tammy Walter said she was the happiest she has been in years after the Cape Elizabeth Town Council on Wednesday conditionally approved the club’s license.