By Ray Carbone
WARNER – The town’s planning board has reversed an earlier decision and decided that a tentative plan to build a $1.4-million shooting range and gun store on Warner Road could impact other nearby communities. At a meeting in town hall on April 17, the group voted unanimously to invite representatives of Hopkinton and the Central NH Regional Planning Commission to participate in a review of the building application presented by Eric Miller of Sutton. Chairman Ben Frost noted that neither of the organizations will have a vote on the final decision.
Frost also revealed that Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech, has filed an appeal with the Merrimack Superior Court, asking that a recent ruling by the town’s zoning board of adjustment be overturned. Carlson claims the ZBA acted improperly when it approved a special exemption for the firearms operation because two state agencies that own property next to the proposed site were not legally notified of the original March hearing. At its last meeting in April, the zoning board reviewed Carlson’s request to reconsider its decision but decided to let the exemption stand.
The court appeal also asked the town to forbid the planning board from moving forward with Miller’s application, but the judge rejected that request. A ruling on the legality of the ZBA’s actions will likely come in May.
(Developer) Eric Miller said the range itself would predominately be an educational facility that will offer classes for novices, educational classes and classes about the laws related to firearms.
Carlson’s high-tech company is located next to the proposed 2.9-acre site of the firearms operation and he’s said that he will move it out of Warner if the town approves the shooting range. He’s concerned about possible noise and safety issues on the land, especially since MadgeTech is planning to expand on the site.
At last week’s planning board hearing, several people in the crowd of more than 60 also voiced similar concerns, including several who live in the village of Contoocook in Hopkinton. Renee Adams pointed out that Hopkinton Middle High School is located nearby the Warner Road site and that both school athletes and family groups frequently exercise and recreate in the area.
Diane Ricciardelli of Warner said that research indicates that home values in town’s where shooting ranges are located typically drop about 4-percent while resident Faith Minton noted that the Warner’s Master Plan favors supporting existing businesses like Carlson’s, which has been in town for 20 years.
But others supported Miller’s plan, indicating his ambitious plans for noise abatement and lead recovery. Selectman Kimberly Edelmann said an indoor range would be good for the town. “So many of us who shoot guns do it outdoors where we piss off the neighbors, the dogs, scare the cows and leave debris in the woods and on the trails.”
Earlier in the meeting, Miller described his planned facility as an indoor gun range and retail store that would “capture 100-percent of sound in the building.” “All spent ammo will be capture,” he added, noting that even water and air will be treated before being released. “Nothing, and I mean nothing, that contains lead is leaving that building.”
Miller said the range itself would predominately be an educational facility that will offer classes for novices, educational classes and classes about the laws related to firearms.
Later, Miller responded to a rumor that he plans to put a lounge on the property in the future where alcohol could be sold. He said he is considering adding a restaurant or an indoor skeet shooting operation next year but those are not part of the current building proposal.
The planning board will continue considering the shooting range plan at its next meet on May 1.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on April 25, 2017.