Zoning amendment sought for indoor shooting range

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BEACON FALLS — The town’s first indoor shooting range may soon be built in the Pinesbridge Commerce Park, depending on whether the Planning and Zoning Commission decides to amend its regulations.

Lee Nemeth, general manager of Kolga LLC at 65 Lancaster Drive, wants to build an indoor shooting range on the vacant, 2.3-acre parcel he owns at 57 Lancaster Drive. His plans are for a 12,000-to-15,000-square-foot shooting range with three to four classrooms and a retail store to sell guns and ammunition.

The town’s zoning regulations don’t allow indoor shooting ranges. Nemeth is seeking an amendment to the regulations to make an indoor gun range a permitted use in industrial park districts.

The Planning and Zoning Commission opened a hearing on his application at a special meeting Feb. 27. In an interview the day after the hearing, Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Kevin McDuffie said the hearing was null and void because a legal notice wasn’t published in the Republican-American before it. He said the commission will hold a new hearing on March 19 at 6:45 p.m.

The application was discussed last week, even though the hearing will have to be done over.

Attorney Edward Fitzpatrick, who is representing Nemeth, told the commission they are seeking to build an indoor gun range based on requests from members of the community.

“There are members of the law enforcement community I know would be greatly benefited by this,” he said.

Nemeth said he’s been thinking of developing the land at 57 Lancaster Drive. As he, his son and son-in-law were exploring possibilities, Nemeth said they all said there’s no indoor range nearby where people can go to shoot and get together with friends.

Dan Nemeth, Lee Nemeth’s son, said the average indoor shooting range has 15 lanes. Shooting would be directed toward a cliff on the property for extra safety, he said.

Brian Blakeman, an Oxford resident and a part-time officer with the Beacon Falls Police Department, said he’s a state certified armed security blue card instructor and certified NRA pistol safety instructor.

“When I teach class, the biggest complaint I get is there is no place local for people to go,” said Blakeman, who told the commission he was speaking as a citizen and not a representative of the police department. “Police officers and armed security guards have to be certified once a year. In my opinion that’s not nearly enough. I feel if you’re going to stay proficient and use a firearm at a professional level, you need to train all the time.”

He added if people own firearms, they need to be proficient and knowledgeable about all gun laws.

“I know from my experience that there’s thousands of firearms owners locally and in surrounding towns, and I know that those firearms owners own thousands of firearms,” Blakeman said. “I believe that if they’re out there, someone needs to provide a place for them to go to practice and train.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. “Chairman Kevin McDuffie said the hearing was null and void because a legal notice wasn’t published in the Republican-American before it.”

    The clerk is hired by the board. Chairman McDuffie oversees the board and ensures that the procedures are being followed correctly, including legal notices. Failure to provide a legal notice is not only McDuffie’s responsibility, but the P&Z Clerk, Mary Ellen Fernandes.

    Think about it this way, even if the legal notice was sent to the paper, and the paper didn’t publish it, it is still the P&Z Chairman’s responsibility.

    This just goes to show you how sloppy the P&Z folks are. McDuffie should resign from the board, and Fernandes should be replaced. It seems the highest paid clerk in town can’t keep up with the job.