Cape Elizabeth gun club sees permit pressure as effort to force shutdown

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Spurwink Rod and Gun Club officials are not only concerned they won’t be able to meet the requirements of a new town ordinance on time, but that the community will prevent the club from meeting them at all.

After the first meeting of the Firing Range Committee on Monday, the club must register and provide a site plan by July 10, 90 days after a new shooting range ordinance went into effect.

Gun Club President Tammy Walter said Thursday that she is worried the ordinance is being used to hurt the club.

“We are concerned that some members of the community are trying to use the ordinance as an end run to shut the club down,” Walter said in an email. “One former Cross Hill resident is writing long letters to the (Town) Council and dominating the discussion at committee meetings, even though he no (longer) lives in Cape Elizabeth.”

Following concerns from neighbors about noise and safety, the club is also required to complete a license application – although whether the club has 180 days to do so, or one year, is in dispute.

But Town Councilor Caitlin Jordan, a committee member, said the discrepancy doesn’t affect the date by which the club has to register.

“For sure they had 90 days to get the site plan,” Jordan said.

Councilor James Wagner, also a committee member, said he does “not believe there are any discrepancies relating to registration requirements,” but did not comment on whether there were discrepancies with licensing requirements.

According to Walter, the paperwork isn’t even available.

“The town is still working on creating an application,” Walter said. “This delay is compressing the time the club will have to complete the application.”

As for the site plan due July 10, it requires that members of the gun club provide explanations of how they will “make reasonable compliances” regarding shot containment and noise abatement, Jordan said.

The safety requests come after neighbors of the town’s only gun club, on Sawyer Road, complained of excessive noise and claimed to find stray bullets lodged into the sides of houses. The purpose of the ordinance is “to minimize adverse effects in adjoining properties.”

Wagner said it is too early to tell if amendments will be made to the ordinance, but that it is more likely that rules for registering will be made more clear. 

“The focus will be to clearly state what is expected of gun clubs regarding shot containment and noise abatement,” he said.

The gun club site plan is scheduled to be reviewed at the next committee meeting on July 16.

Walter said she hopes things run smoothly to ensure the ordinance requirements are met.

“Since this is a new ordinance, we hope all parties involved will have patience and work collaboratively,” she said.

Jordan said that although complying with unclear rules may be hard, it’s a process that must be completed.

“This was the solution Town Council came up with. It’s not like it’s a bad policy,” she said. “If we have a shooting range, we want it to be safe.”

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.