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Friction intensifies between gun club, Cape Elizabeth homeowners

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Friction intensifies between gun club, Cape Elizabeth homeowners

CAPE ELIZABETH — Tension is rising between the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club and residents in the nearby Cross Hill neighborhood.

Twice this month, homeowners have called police to complain about gunfire at the club before noon on Sunday mornings, a breach of the club's rules.

"We can't enforce a club rule," Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams said. "We just go down there and tell them they're breaking the rules. We tell (Gun Club President Mark Mayone), and he'll usually do some kind of sanction against them."

Detective Mark Dorval responded to a call on Sunday, Nov. 17, around 11:45 a.m., and found two club members firing rounds. They said they didn't realize they were using the range outside of club hours, which are noon to sunset on Sundays, and 8 a.m. to sunset Monday through Saturday, according to a sign outside the club.

Dorval also responded to a complaint received on Sunday, Nov. 3, around 11:30 a.m. One club member was using the range; he said he'd forgotten to turn back his watch for Eastern Standard Time, which began at 2 a.m. that morning, and thought it was after noon.

In both instances, club members were cooperative and agreed to cease shooting until noon, Williams said, although they were not obligated to by any law.

"There is no sanction or ordinance we can take against them, unless later on the town (decides to regulate), if it comes down to that," Williams said.

The Town Council in September agreed to hire attorney Kenneth Cole III of Portland law firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry to serve as a mediator between the club and its Cross Hill neighbors, and, if necessary, to draft a related ordinance.

The council met with Cole in an executive session on Nov. 6, and he is due to submit a recommendation to the council by Monday, Dec. 2.

Meanwhile, a citizens group calling itself the Committee to Keep Cape Elizabeth Safe this month took out a half-page newspaper ad with the headline "Do some of us actually live in the Town of Spurwink?"

The ad in the Cape Courier called for a public, independent safety audit of the gun club, as well as engineering improvements to increase safety and reduce noise. It referenced "multiple bullet strikes of homes" near the club, claims which have been repeated since 2009, but never substantiated by police.

The ad repeatedly thanked the Town Council and Chairman Jim Walsh for reviewing the town's role in regulating the club.

It called for the restoration of "peace, safety and sanity" to the community.

Mayone, the club president, did not respond immediately to a voice message left at the club seeking his comment.

The club has existed on Sawyer Road for 57 years. In the 1990s, a housing development was built near the club in an area now known as Cross Hill. The club has had an uneasy relationship with its neighbors ever since.

"The (club) has been there forever," Councilor Caitlin Jordan said last month. "As long as it’s safe, I don't see any problem with it. Noise is not a safety issue. If you build a house next to a rod and gun club, you're going to hear gunfire in the background. It’s kind of a given.”

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.