Milford selectmen table proposal for shooting range at Brox

MILFORD – After a meeting at which people spoke for and against allowing a target shooting range on town-owned property, selectmen once again tabled the proposal, saying more questions must be answered.

Board members praised the newly formed Milford Gun Club for its in-depth proposal on Monday, July 24, but they said they need more specific information:

• How would rules be enforced?

• Would use be limited to Milford residents, and if so, would their guests be allowed?

• Who would check identification?

• Where would people park?

• How and when would the club clean up lead?

Milford Gun Club members said their plan for the Brox property is based on National Rifle Association standards and would result in a safe, confined area to shoot that would be open to the community. They said they would build a structure for the shooting station to mitigate noise and have limited hours and days of operation.

Christopher Skinner gave a slide presentation with maps and photos showing distances between the shooting area and the target, and from roads and Heron Pond Elementary School. The plan includes use of an existing 20-foot-high berm for the target area, and the berm has a high hill behind it. Hiking trails are out of the line of fire, he said.

Several residents, including neighbors and abutters, oppose the plan, some saying noise from the shooting that already takes place on Brox is loud and disturbing.

“The noise is horrific. … It’s bad enough” that neighbors have to put up with trucks in the Brox property, said one woman from Ches Mae Lane. “I have a grandchild, and it’s not safe to be in my backyard.”

Steve Takacs, of Whitten Road, objected to the noise and to a suggestion that the question about a shooting range appear on the town ballot next year, saying people who don’t live there “couldn’t care less.”

“There is an awful lot of concern here,” Denise Clark said. “Why is Milford taking on this activity?”

Paul Amato, a Planning Board member who owns land near Brox, said target shooting isn’t a good use of the property and that a shooting range would “set a dangerous precedent.”

Police Chief Michael Viola said there are still many questions that need answers, including how the club would deal with people who don’t want to leave.

The club asked for permission to start a range after selectmen proposed a rule last winter banning shooting on the town-owned property. Police had asked for some kind of law that would allow them to ask people to stop shooting when other people complain.

“This is a tough decision to make,” Selectman Mike Putnam told the gun club members Monday night.

The board is clearly divided at this point, with Putnam and Gary Daniels expressing support for the shooting range and Chairman Mark Fougere and Vice Chairman Kevin Federico, who participated in the meeting via video conferencing, opposed.

New board member Laura Dudziak said there is no state law that allows towns to regulate firearm use.

“I know what they’ve proposed is safe,” Putnam said. “We allow all kinds of recreation,” and guns are recreation, he said.

Fougere said no town or city in New Hampshire has allowed a shooting range on municipal property, and Milford would be “plowing the road.”

“I am very concerned about bothering neighbors,” who will have to tolerate the town’s gravel operations for many years, he said.

As a municipal planner, he has worked for the town of Hollis in its dealings with the Lone Pine Hunters Club, which is now closed to shooting. The club is spending “tens of thousands” to clean up lead, he said.

Selectmen also acknowledged that lead now on the property is the town’s responsibility, and that the town would need to clean it up in order to have a baseline to use if the gun club were to begin shooting there.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 7. The board had scheduled a meeting in June to make a decision, but postponed it because of a full agenda, members said.

“We should set a deadline,” Daniels said. “It’s not fair to have them keep coming back.”

The gun club proposal is expected to be on the town’s website soon.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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