Gun firing range proposal shot down by Warner ZBA

(Zoning Board Chair Janice Loz, center-left, discusses a proposal to grant a variance that would allow a local business to construct an indoor gun range. – Photo: RC)

 

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – It was close at the end, but Warner’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) voted 3-2 to deny a zoning variance application submitted by Dragonfly Ranges.

The variance would have allowed the Sutton-based company to build a $1.4-million modern indoor gun range and retail store on Warner Road.

At its town hall meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 10, the board ruled that the application failed to meet several criteria required under Warner’s zoning regulations. Among the most significant was that the project would not negatively impact the “health, morals and welfare” of the area and adjoining neighborhoods, and that the project was “essential or desirable to the public convenience and welfare.”

(Board member Sam) Bower pointed out that more than 80-percent of the public input that ZBA had received was against the proposed firing range.

After the meeting, Eric Miller of Dragonfly said that he would be talking with some of the project’s supporters soon about possibly developing the firearms facility as a private club rather than a retail facility. A private club, which is not open to the public, would face less stringent legal limitations.

Miler also has the option of appealing the ZBA’s decision, asking the group to reconsider its decision, before Feb. 10.

Dragonfly’s defeat is a victory for Norman Carlson, the founder and president of Madgetech, Inc., the high-tech firm that is located next to the 2.9–acre lot where Miller hoped to build. Carlson inadvertently created the lot when, according to state officials, he mistakenly okayed an easement for a timber cut on the property even though it was still part of the Davisville State Forest at the time. When state officials discovered the problem, they decided to cut the oddly shaped 2.9.-acre track out from the forest and sell it. Carlson tried to purchase it but lost out in a bid process to a Webster resident, who later sold it to Dragonfly.

After Dragonfly’s plans became public, Carlson funded a lengthy legal battle against the effort. He said that he would move his 60-employee plant out of Warner if the facility were built because his employees were nervous about being next to a shooting range.

Dragonfly first applied to the ZBA for its variance almost one year ago, in February 2017. The board initially approved the variance request but Carlson appealed the decision to Merrimack County Superior Court, claiming that the town had not properly notified several abutters about the proposed building plan. While the town’s planning board okayed the project, the court ruled against the ZBA, tossing it back to the town.

In the ensuing months, the ZBA has worked to make sure that anyone who had an interest in Miller’s proposal was notified and heard. As a result, the board heard from scores of area residents and received more than 100 written comments, including a letter from the Hopkinton school board saying that its educational community opposed the facility.

Throughout the process, Miller maintained that the Dragonfly range would be safe, with high-tech lead abatement and noise suppression systems, a trained staff and plenty of safety measures. He said that shooting ranges typically attract people who are serious gun owners and that the Warner building would primarily be an “educational facility.”

Before last week’s vote, ZBA member Sam Bower said that he “struggled with” seeing how the project could met the zoning regulations requirement that a business is “essential or desirable,” and beneficial to the “public convenience or welfare.”

Bower pointed out that more than 80-percent of the public input that ZBA had received was against the proposed firing range, which seemed to indicate that it wasn’t desirable.

Chairman Janice Loz said that the ZBA’s decision was not supposed to be a popularity contest, but Bower said the reactions should be considered. “How do you measure ‘desirability,’ except from public input,” he asked rhetorically.

Bower also noted that the Warner Fish & Game Club provides outdoor options for local firearms enthusiasts and that indoor shooting is available within 30 minutes in numerous directions from town.

ZBA member Beverly Howe said she was most concerned about the possibility of noise that the shooting range would produce. “A gun range brings a specific type of sound,” she told her fellow members. “A combustive, unpredictable type of sound.”

Miller had even admitted to the group that, despite his plans for a high-tech noise suppressant system, he could not predict how much noise would be audible at the edge of his property, she added.

Later, Bower said that the shooting range would likely have a negative impact on local property values.

Loz pointed out that Miller had disputed that idea in his testimony but Bower explained that a representative of the Brown Family Realty company in town confirmed his position.

In the end, Bower voted with Howe and board member Elizabeth Labbe to reject Dragonfly’s application, while Loz and Howard Kirchner stood in opposition.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

 

 

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Sunapee Access commission reviews history of long-running dispute

By Ray Carbone

CONCORD – At last week’s meeting of the governor’s new Lake Sunapee Public Assess Development Commission, the 15-member group began probing the history of the 25-plus-year dispute about where to put a public launch on the state’s sixth largest lake.

The two-hour meeting began with several people testifying on behalf of the two major proposals that have been considered over the last two decades. The state-owned Wild Goose property in Newbury would be too expensive to develop and its location would create serious traffic problems in town, according to its critics. Supporters say the site has already passed several legal requirements for the required state-owned-and-operated facility, and that the proposed alternative Sunapee State Beach site is too small.

At the conclusion of the hearing held in the Legislative Office Building last Thursday, the commissioners listened to remarks made by fellow commissioner Glenn Normandeau, who is executive director of the state’s Fish & Game Department.

‘My own personal opinion is that it (turning the Sunapee State Beach into a primary boat launch) is not permit-able.’

NH Fish & Game Dept. Commissioner Glenn Normandeau 

When Normandeau mentioned the estimated costs of dredging the state beach for a launch site, Chairman Neil Levesque asked if the commissioner could bring that kind of specific data to the group for review. “Get as many (related) costs as possible to this commission,” Levesque urged.

The chairman also asked Normandeau to look into the question of whether the state has a valid right-of-way on properties adjacent to the state beach property that may impact the development of a boat launch there, and the Fish & Game official said he’d comply.

Lévesque said that Gov. Chris Sununy had asked the commission to consider other possible sites that could be used for a boat launch. “Have you looked at all the (available) spots on Lake Sunapee,” he asked Normandeau.

“Unless something has come up for sale that I’m not aware of, I can’t imagine there’s anything else,” the commissioner answered.

Earlier in the meeting, June Fichter, the executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA), said that her group had previously funded a conceptual plan for developing the state beach site as an alternative to the Wild Goose property.

“I’ve never seen this plan,” said Tom Quarles, a member of the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board who is on the commission. “Why haven’t we seen that?”

Fichter said that she would “absolutely” provide the paperwork to the group. “It is more than a plan,” she explained, but the document is not a detailed proposal. While it includes “some narrative research about how various regulatory” and other relevant issues could be addressed, it doesn’t make a specific proposal.

“It’s not our place to design a full-up plan,” she told Quarles.

Normandeau gave the longest testimony of the day, reviewing several issues related to developing a suitable public boat launch. When Fish & Game first took over the Wild Goose property, the Governor’s Council indicated that it was “going to be primary boat access on Lake Sunapee,” he said. But when it appeared that the state might acquire the George’s Mill launch property in Sunapee, state officials began considering utilizing Wild Goose simply for canoes, kayaks, etc.

After Sunapee residents rejected the George’s Mill transfer, the state’s attention returned to developing the Wild Goose property.

In 2008, Normandeau said that state officials met with LSPA officials at the state beach site to review the property. The state subsequently paid for extensive research on developing the small boat launch area there into a larger facility.

“My own personal opinion is that it’s not permit-able,” the commissioner said. He explained that dredging would be “a constant maintenance” issue and that there would likely be strong opposition from abutters. (Normandeau said he thought the current state beach launch site would be best suited for canoes, kayaks, etc.)

In 2010-2011, “a raid was made” by state officials on funds that were designated for the boat ramp project and “there’s never been much talk about putting (the money) back,” Normandeau told the commission.

The commission will hold its public next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, 9 a.m., at the Legislative Office Building.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 19, 2017.

 

Warner gun range case still unsettled

Above – Attorney Paul Alfano, representing Norman Carlson of Warner, testifies before the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment  in the Christmas-themed Town Hall last week. – RC

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – For the third time this year, the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment voted last week to continue its public hearing on a special exception that would allow a Sutton man to build a $1.4-million indoor gun firing range and retail store on Warner Road nearby exit 7 off I-89.

At its regular town hall monthly meeting Wednesday night, the board primarily heard from attorney Mark Puffer of Concord, who is representing Eric Miller and his company, Dragonfly Ranges of Sutton. The lawyer responded to comments made at the November meeting by Paul Alfano, the Concord lawyer who represents Norman Carlson. Carlson, who is the founder and president of Madgetech, a 60-employee high-tech firm that sits next to the 2.9-acre lot where the proposed firearms facility would be built, has said he may move his operations out of Warner if Dragonfly’s range is constructed adjacent to his plant.

Early in the meeting, Alfano reviewed Carlson’s objections to the gun range site. He said a town zoning regulation that would allow “recreational and other amusements” in the zone where Dragonfly wants to build wouldn’t apply to its plans. “If you look at a common sense reading (of those terms),” he said, “it does not include this.”

Alfano also said that the gun facility would not meet a requirement that it be “desirable” in the neighborhood, based on the large number of area residents who have voice opposition to the project. And there are still unanswered questions related to its possible impact on nearby property values, ambient noise, and environmental issues, the attorney added.

‘This is not a referendum on firearms, and it’s not a popularity contest. This is a zoning case.’

– Attorney Mark Puffer, representing Dragonfly Ranges

 

“If you vote against this, it doesn’t mean your anti-gun,” Alfano told the board. “It means the application didn’t meet the special exception criteria.”

But Puffer said that Alfano was being somewhat disingenuous about the gun-rights issue. “Remember at the (original) October hearing, the very first thing he said was that ‘Eric Miller did not talk about the elephant in the room, which was that guns kill people,” he recalled, classifying the statement as “incendiary.”

“This is not a referendum on firearms, and it’s not a popularity contest,” Puffer said. “This is a zoning case.”

He noted that proposed Walmart stores are frequently opposed by various members of a community, but the company is allowed to build because its stores meet the zoning requirements.

Puffer also argued that the firing range is allowed as a “recreational” special exception under the town’s zoning regulations. “It’s akin to an indoor tennis facility, a roller-skating rink or an ice skating facility,” he said.

The attorney then disputed Alfano’s claim that noise, pollution and property values issues had not be refuted, stating that Miller had responded to each in paperwork that submitted to the board. And he said that while Miller was at all public hearings, several experts who had filed reports in favor of Carlson’s objections were not. “None of them came here to be questioned,” Puffer told the board.

The ZBA will continue the gun range hearing at its next meeting on Wednesday, January 10 at 7 p.m. in the town hall.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. 

 

 

Opponents, supporters of Wild Goose plan have their say at public hearing

NOTE: The NH’s new Lake Sunapee Public Access Commission will hold a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Concord this Thursday, Dec. 14, at 9:00 am. At its recent meeting in Newbury, the commission announced that it would soon begin seeking input from state officials about the issue. – RC

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – At a recent public meeting of the new Lake Sunapee Public Access Development Commission, the ongoing debate was renewed between those who favor developing the state’s long-planned plan to build a boat access facility on the Wild Goose property and those who claim the site is unsuitable.

Approximately 70 people attended the two-hour gathering of the state’s new 15-member board at the town offices on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 30.

The issues have been “fought over for more than 25 years,” said Chairman Neil Lavesque.

Neil Lavesque, the group’s chairman, told the crowd that Gov. Chris Sununu had formed the commission several months ago in the hope that it would find a “New Hampshire solution” to the unresolved problems related to granting greater public boat access to the state’s sixth largest lake.

The issues have been “fought over for more than 25 years,” Lavesque reminded the group. People will need to work together to come up with a solution, even if “everyone is not going to be happy” with the outcome.

During the meeting, the commission members mostly listened as people outlined their opinions.

Dick Smith of Hancock, who called himself a lifelong angler and a member of the state’s public access water advisory board, said that he “knows a little about boat access, fishing and so forth.” “I feel like I’m here to represent the one-quarter million people who fish in New Hampshire every year,” he said. “It’s apparent that public access should be expanded on Sunapee. The question is where would be the best site for that.

“The citizens of New Hampshire own that lake, all of us equally,” he added, affirming the state’s legal authority over the waterway. “It’s held in a public trust. We also own the Wild Goose property, and its intent when it was bought was for it to be for provide public access to the general public, and it still is.”

Smith said the state has already invested about $450,000 into a plan to develop a Wild Goose facility, and that when it’s completed the federal government will pay for three-quarters of the total costs. The plan has been approved by the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the NH Supreme Court has twice turned down legal challenges to the site’s development.

“There’s an awful lot of support for Wild Goose,” he concluded.

But Ed Thorson, the chairman of the Newbury board of selectmen, said there are problems with the location. “It’s dangerous. There are already many accident on that stretch of road,” he said. “The speed limit on Rte. 103 is 50 mph, but in reality many of the motoring public is going much faster. The site distance at either end of Birch Grove Road is not adequate to safely have boats and trailers pulling out onto a very busy Route 103. “

June Fichter, the executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA), agreed with Thorson, arguing that Wild Goose was a bad choice. “Although purchased purely for conservation purposes, along with another 100 acres on Mount Sunapee, Wild Goose is much better suited for car-tope access, for canoes and kayaks,” she said.

Fichter asked the commission members to encourage relevant state agencies to work together to develop the Sunapee State Beach recreational area to increase parking and develop the launch facility there.

State Rep. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury) supported Fichter’s stance. “The state beach works,” he said, adding that the costs of renovating that facility would be much more economical than the proposed Wild Goose development. “There are plans drawn up,” Wolf added, referring to the state beach parking challenge. “There’s a way to do it.”

Attorney Howard Dunn of Claremont, who is representing several organizations and individuals that are suing the DES for not moving forward with the Wild Goose development, said that the idea of developing the state beach site was flawed.

“It’s been degraded a little bit by the snowmaking equipment there but it’s still a terrific place to swim,” he said of the public beach. “But it needs protection from having this kind of boat access there.” Dunn said that if the state doesn’t use the Wild Goose site, he doubted that there would ever be a state-owned public access facility on Sunapee.

State Rep. Peter Hanson (R-Amherst) reported that he’d recently introduced a bill in the legislature that would restore funding for the development of the Wild Goose site, adding that problematic traffic issues could be resolved by reducing the speed limit on Rte. 103 and taking other precautionary measures.

At the hearing’s conclusion, Chairman Lavesque said the commission would meet again on Thursday, December 14, at 9 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Concord, and the public is again invited to attend.

The group plans to soon start speaking with public officials about the Sunapee public access issue, then move into a deliberative session in advance of a final decision. Gov. Sununu has asked the commission to issue its recommendation by March 2018.

This story first appeared in the Inter-Town Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

Charges dropped in alleged Sunapee election fraud incident

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – The state’s efforts to prosecute two men who were allegedly involved in an election fraud scheme in 2016 has fallen short.

Last month, the NH attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with two charges of illegally altering an email in order to influence the outcome of an election, and one charge of forgery against Adam Gaw of Manchester.

The decision followed an October ruling handed down by Newport district judge Gregory E. Michael that dismissed the same charges against a Sunapee resident, Joseph Furlong.

The woman told police that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the Sunapee school board… Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message…

The two men were charged with the misdemeanor crimes after Sunapee police investigated a report from a resident that was made in March 2016. The woman told David Cahill, Sunapee’s police chief, that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the town’s school board, and sent it to several town acquaintances. Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message with the apparent aim of tilting the election in favor of Heather Furlong, Joseph’s wife, and sent it out to a larger group of citizens just days before a school board election. (Heather Furlong won a seat on the school board but resigned one year later after her husband was arrested.)

Cahill said he immediately notified the attorney general of a possible election fraud crime. With the AG’s support, he then began an investigation that led him to Joseph Furlong.

Furlong denied playing a role in the doctored message. Instead, he pointed to Gaw, an independent building contractor who may have been working on the Furlong house the night of the alleged crime.

Cahill initially doubted Gaw’s existence, saying he thought Furlong had invented a “straw man” to escape responsibility for his actions. Gaw sent an email to the Sunapee police claiming full responsibility for the altered email.

It was not until the early 2017 that the attorney general’s office filed formal charges against Furlong and Gaw. Shortly thereafter, it withdrew the original charges and filed new ones that it believed were more likely to lead to convictions.

But when Furlong’s case came to trial earlier this fall, his lawyer asked Judge Michael to dismiss the charges because the newer ones were filed too late – just days after the legal statute of limitations had run out.

The judge agreed and, when the AG’s office appealed his decision, he affirmed it, saying that authorities had “failed to properly investigate the facts.”

When Gaw’s case came to court on November 14, James Vera of the attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with the Manchester man’s prosecution.

Last week, Vera said that Gaw’s lawyer “would have made the same argument” that caused Judge Michael to drop the charges against Furlong.

Vera refused to blame anyone on the prosecution’s team for the outcome.

“I’m not going to say that anyone dropped the ball,” he said. “There was a decision that was made and it was incorrect.”

Vera said the state is not planning any further action related to the incident.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on November 28, 2017.

Sunapee Lake access group to host public meeting

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – The state’s new Lake Sunapee Public Boat Access Development Commission will be holding a public meeting in the Newbury town office Thursday, Nov. 30, from 3 to 5 p.m.

The meeting is the latest in a series of pubic hearings the group is using to gather input from various stakeholders about plans to develop a public boat launch site on Sunapee. The public is invited to attend.

The commission was formed earlier this fall after Gov. Chris Sununu announced his intention to abandon the long-delayed plan to create a boat launch at the Wild Goose property in Newbury. The commission is charged with identifying a new site and with developing alternate plans for the 3.3-acre Wild Goose land, which the state purchased 1990.

The attorney general recently filed an appeal, asking the court to dismiss the wildlife group’s suit. The attorney representing the group said that he is preparing a legal response to the AG’s request.

While that process is moving forward, a group of New Hampshire residents who have fishing and other interests on Sunapee has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Sununu’s actions. The group, which includes the New Hampshire Bass Federation and the Sullivan County Sportsmen and the Mountain View Gun club, as well as Gary Clark of Merrimack, the author of the popular “Clark’s New Hampshire Fishing Guide,” charges that the state Department of Environmental Services violated its own procedures when it agreed to abandon its Wild Goose plans at the governor’s request.

The state’s attorney general recently filed an appeal, asking the Sullivan County Superior Court to dismiss the wildlife group’s suit. The attorney representing the group, William Howard Dunn of Claremont, said last week that he is preparing a legal response to the AG’s request.

The recently appointed 15-member commission includes two state representatives, as well as representatives from the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board, the NH Fish and Game Department, the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES), the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and residents of New London, Newbury and Sunapee.

Rep. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury) supports the DES’s decision to abandon the Wild Goose plan. He said the proposed project would create major traffic problems in Newbury, the construction costs are unreasonable – estimated to be over $100,000 – and that there are environmental concerns. “In my opinion it’s not the right site to put a boat launch,” he said.

A better option would be to establish a boat launch at the Sunapee State Beach in Newbury, Wolf suggested. “There’s an opportunity there to create parking space on the access road going in, and to refurbish the boat ramps at the beach,” he said. The project would be cost-effective and safe, he added.

But Dunn said that adding a state-owned-and-operated boat launch on the state beach would be the “ruination” of the recreational area.

“Endangerment of the state beach is an important aspect of this,” the attorney said. “There can be up to 50 kids there (on a summer day).” Ten towns use the state beach for organized community recreation, he added.

In addition, some of the beach area has already been shrunk by snowmaking equipment, Dunn said, so taking more space is impossible. “It would make it smaller yet; it would reduce parking in the area and it would possibly reduce that very expensive play area there.”

State law requires that there must be public access to any waterway that’s larger than 10 acres, according to Dunn. His clients have to buy boating licenses and purchase relevant equipment that is taxed, and part of those collected funds are supposed to go towards paying for boating access, he added. In addition, a federal grant is available that would pay for more than one-half of a launch site on the Wild Goose land, the lawyer concluded.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rep. Wolf and Rep. Karen Ebel (D-New London) are part of the commission. We regret the error.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, November 28, 2017.

 

‘Around Concord’ – The Best Thing on Ice: Concord NH ‘invented’ American hockey

(The striking image above is by Brad Wuorinen, and on the magazine cover.)

Enjoy our story in the Winter edition of “Around Concord” magazine, “The Best Thing on Ice: Black Ice Pond Hockey.” It tells Concord’s unique role in the establishment of hockey in America. (You can read whole magazine here, or ‘hard copy’ available at newsstands.) Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season to all!

http://www.aroundconcord.com/2017/11/17/160686/around-concord-winter-2017

 

 

 

Warner celebrates library renovations, solar array

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Town officials and residents gathered twice on Saturday to mark two separate advancements in their community.

In the morning, about 30 people gathered at the new municipal solar array adjacent to the town dump to formerly mark the instillation of the facility.

In the afternoon, residents streamed in and out of the Pillsbury Free Library to see and celebrate the completion of that building’s recent renovations.

The library has been a source of community pride ever since it first opened in 1908, according to Michael Simon, chairman of its board of trustees.

‘We’ve very fortunate because more than 100 years ago, the Pillsbury family donated the land and the building (for the Pillsbury Free Library).’ 

– Michael Simon, chairman of board of trustees.- 

 

“We’ve very fortunate because more than 100 years ago, the Pillsbury family donated the land and the building,” he said. “And Mr. Pillsbury made an agreement with the town, that the town would provide a certain amount of money – one-tenth of one-percent of the town’s assessed value – to the library.”

So while other town libraries have to go back to the voters (or town leadership boards) annually for funding, the Warner facility is guaranteed a certain amount of money for its operations, Simon said.

Several years ago, however, the library board did go to the annual town meeting to request a $25,000 allocation. That money was used to take advantage of a state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) matching grant totaling $50,000 to pay for much needed renovations to the building. (Town officials provided ‘in-kind’ labor equaling the other.)

Those funds – as well as money created by some additional fundraising – paid for the majority of the changes that were celebrated last weekend.

A major improvement Simon touted was the elimination of a lowered ceiling that as probably installed during the energy crises of the 1970s. It may have lowered fuel costs but it also blocked a section of the historic building’s original ceiling as well as portions of some stain glass windows.

Another significant improvement was brick and masonry repair/renovation done on the exterior. Graham Pendlebury of New Boston worked with Tim Allen, the town’s director of public works, to accomplish much of this work. The project included finding and fixing an area underneath the front stairs that was allowing rain water to leak into the Frank Maria meeting room.

Earlier in the day, Clyde Carson, a selectman and longtime member of the selectmen’s energy committee, thanked several community members for helping to establish the municipal solar array.

At an informal gathering in the DPW garage, Carlson mentioned the contributions of past and present committee members as well as several former selectmen, including Allan N. Brown. He also thanked some residents who manned a phone bank, reminding citizens to come to the annual town meeting in March, where voters approved the $338,530 project.

“Thirty years ago at town meeting, we passed an ordinance for mandatory recycling,” noted Neil Nevins, a longtime advocate of the town’s clean energy initiatives. “And now, thanks to that ordinance we have a wonderful recycling plant nearby.” The recycling effort also paved the way for more clean energy projects, like the new municipal solar array, he added.

The facility will provide power for 14 town buildings and properties, and continue the town’s long-standing involvement in clean energy, Nevins noted.

“I’m so proud to be associated with the town of Warner,” said George Horrocks of Harmony Energy Works, the company that worked with Tim Allen, director of the DPW, on the construction. “Of all the municipalities we’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years, this is the place where a lot of people cared, not just a few… Here, we saw people cared.”

After the discussion, State Sen. Dan Feltes read an official senate resolution congratulating the community on the solar array, and then Carlson led the group outside to the facility. Once in front of the solar panels, several community leaders and others involved in the project participated in an informal ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Then, it was back to the DPW garage for cider and doughnuts, as well as more friendly conversation with neighbors.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspapers of Sutton, New Hampshire, on November 21, 2017.

 

Warner gun proposal still under fire

(Above: The Warner Road site where Dragonfly Ranges wants to build. © Carbone Productions, LLC)

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The latest shots have been fired in the ongoing community battle over a proposed 16-lane indoor shooting range and gun store on Warner Road near Rte. 103.

On Wednesday night, approximately 50 local residents from Warner and Hopkinton came to a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. They offered either support or opposition to the project, which has been proposed by Eric Miller of Sutton under the name Dragonfly Ranges.

The board was unable to a final decision on the project because it still has to review more than 100 pages of public input letters and emails that have been sent from Hopkinton residents. (Hopkinton residents were invited to participate in the review process because the proposed site is close to Contoocook village and deem to be of regional impact; Warner town officials are not obligated to factor in the Hopkinton comments in their final decision.) The board will take up Dragonfly’s proposal at its next meeting on Dec. 13.

‘Guns are uniquely deadly items. You can’t get around that. They’re designed to kill.’

Paul Alfano, MadgeTech attorney 

The most ardent opposition to the shooting range has come from Norman Carlson, the founder and CEO of MadgeTech, a high-tech company that’s located next to the proposed project’s site. Carlson has threatened to move his 60-employee plant out of Warner if the facility is approved by the town. His Warner Road Holdings, Inc. business entity has filed several legal challenges against the town’s planning and zoning boards in order to halt the $1.4-million proposal.

At Wednesday’s meeting, attorney Paul Alfano of Concord, who represents Carlson, started with a linguistic bang. “Guns are uniquely deadly items,” he said. “You can’t get around that. They’re designed to kill.”

The lawyer went on to suggest several reasons that the ZBA should deny Dragonfly Ranges’ request for a special exemption to build on the property near I-89’s exit 7. He said the 11,800 square-foot facility would not meet required setbacks to MadgeTech’s neighboring lot, that the sound of gunfire would be audible from Warner Road, that the operation’s environmental safeguards would not be adequate, and that residential property values in the neighborhood would be adversely impacted by the shooting range/gun store.

In addition, he said that recent renovations Dragonfly had made to its noise abatement program were still insufficient. He quoted from a report that an audio expert had done for his legal firm, which concluded that Dragonfly showed “a complete lack of understanding of acoustics.”

Alfano concluded his presentation by suggesting that the building a gun store/shooting range on the Warner Road land would disagree with the goals of the town’s master plan.

“It’s detrimental to the zoning district,” he said. “And it’s detrimental to the health and welfare of the public.”

Janice Loz, the board’s new chairman, followed up by asking Carlson if he owned a gun.

Some in the audience gasped and Alfano began to object to the question but the MadgeTech CEO said he didn’t own a gun but did not agree with Alfano’s statement “a gun’s only purpose is to kill.”

During the public input part of the meeting, several residents voiced their opposition to the facility.

“I don’t see how a gun range enhances the town. It’s not the reason that people move to the town of Warner,” said Pam August of Warner.

It was a sentiment echoed by several others.

Chuck Austin said he’s hesitant about the project because of what’s happening in Washington. “Congress has been unable to pass even the simplest of gun laws,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to invite (guns) into our town… I don’t think it’s safe to have a gun range or shop in our family town.”

Clyde Carson, who serves on the town’s board of selectmen, said that Carlson’s threat to move MadgeTech out of Warner if the shooting facility is built next door should be taken seriously. “We have an abutter that is a high-tech company, that has one of the highest payrolls in town,” he noted. “They’re saying, this isn’t good for our business… What do we tell our existing businesses if we don’t take them into account?

“It’s not in the best interest of the town to approve this exception,” he told the ZBA.

But others disagreed, saying that some of their neighbors’ fears were unreasonable and that the facility would be a safe asset to the community.

“I speak against the ridiculous assertion that a gun’s sole purpose is killing,” said one man.

Another claimed that the so-called “explosive” nature of gunpowder that Alfano alluded to is a misnomer. “Ammunition does not propagate itself,” he explained. “The idea that it’s a big explosive hazard, that’s just not true.”

Andy Stone of Hopkinton echoed the thoughts of several others when he said that a place like Dragonfly Ranges, where shooters can learn about gun safety and practice their skills, would be beneficial for the area.

James Gafney of Warner questioned the assertion that the proposed facility would drive down local home values, saying that the studies Alfano had presented to the board reflected prices in commercially-zone areas where residential homes were built later, after a shooting range was already established.

“We live in a very rural town,” noted Warner resident Mary Watts. “When we first moved here, I was terrified (because) every one of my neighbors had guns. They would target shoot, and I was afraid a stray shot would hit one of my young children. I was terrified of guns.

“But I had a very good friend who took me to the Manchester firing range,” she added. “That is the most important thing that this brings to this community: it takes away the fear. It helps people like me live in a place like this.”

Afterwards, Dragonfly’s owner Eric Miller said that supporters of his project had come to the meeting with the goal of being heard by officials and other residents.

The ZBA will take up the Dragonfly application again at its next meeting in December.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, November 14, 2017.

 

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