Eric Miller submitted the above illustration showing what his proposed gun shop/shooting gallery could look like to Warner planning officials recently.
By Ray Carbone
WARNER – A Sutton man’s plan to build a $1.4-million indoor shooting range and retail gun store on Warner Road has won initial approval from town planning officials but it’s opposed by Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech Inc., who says he will move his high-tech firm out of town if the project moves forward.
Norman Carlson says MadgeTech, which abuts the proposed project’s land, does $10-million in annual sales but he will move his 60-employee firm from its hometown if Eric Miller’s proposal to construct two buildings (connected by a breezeway) totaling 11,800 square-feet on 2.9 acres for a firearms operation moves forward.
Last year, Carlson tried to buy the same land in a sealed bid process from the NH division of Forests and Land, but his bid fell just $100 short. The winning bid of $57,100 was entered by Richard M. George of Webster and Carlson believes that George was somehow tipped off about his company’s $57,000 bid. George denies the claim.
Miller said he retired at 50 but he soon got bored and began thinking about options. “I began thinking, what is it that’s worth my time, that would be able to draw in enough people for it to be viable,” he recalled. “And I ended up concluding that this (shooting range and store) was a business that I could draw people in from a 30-mile radius and pull in enough people for it to be viable.”
(MadgeTech’s president Norman) Carlson believes that (Richard M.) George was somehow tipped off about his company’s $57,000 bid (on the land). George denies the claim.
The businessman said he deliberately chose the unusually shaped lot nearby Interstate 89’s exit 7.
“I needed (the site) to be commercial zoned and with the least amount of abutters,” he explained. “A gun range is definitely a thing that’s going to go thorough review from (town) zoning, planning and all that… It would have been harder if it were next to a residential area. That would have caused a lot more confusion and panic by the surrounding neighbors.”
Miller said the shooting range would be a 9,400 square-feet structure with 16 lanes; the retail store of 2,400 square feet would connect via a breezeway. The range will be built to double the noise standards required by the Department of Energy. In addition, the Department of Environmental Services’ air quality standards call for an aggressive HVAC system that eliminates any lead produced by firearms from the air before being released to the outdoors.
Miller described his planned range as an “educational facility” that will cater to a growing group of novices interested in shooting.
But that’s one of than issues that most concerns Carlson.
“You’ll have people getting in and out of their vehicles with guns. And he said he’s going to appeal to novices so you’ll have people who don’t know what they’re doing. We have (employee) picnics outside there, not five feet from that property. There’s a residence right there, a couple with two small children. Do we really want that next to a residential home?”
Carlson said he’s for the Second Amendment but he does not want the shooting so close to his growing business. He said employees have already raised concerns and he’s prepared to do anything he can to oppose the project, from exploring legal options to moving out of town.
“Our company is 20 years old,” he explained. “Everything we sell, we make and design right here in Warner. We do about $10-million in annual sales. We have two devices on the International Space Station. Almost every biotech company in the world uses our products. We have an annual growth in Asia of 32 percent, in Europe of 22 percent. Everyone here has health insurance, a 401K, profit sharing and all kinds of benefits. And we’re working on a $3 million addition here for office space and marketing.
“I hope they know what they’re giving up here,” the MadgeTech president said, referring to town leaders. “It’s too bad, because there are other towns I can move to, places that will give me tax breaks. Concord will give me tax credits to move there. I don’t want to do that, but if they want to put a gun range in there, they’re telling me they don’t value this company… I won’t stay around if Warner decides to approve a gun range there.”
In early March, Miller won a special exception from the town’s zoning board of adjustment to operate the shooting range as an approved “amusement and recreation (indoor)” facility. On March 24, the town’s planning board was scheduled to review his building application but it delayed accepting the application because Carlson filed a request for a rehearing. The MadgeTech president said that the town had failed to notify two abutters: the NH Department of Transportation and the division of Forest and Lands. The board voted to notify the two agencies and rescheduled a meeting for Monday, April 17.
Last week, the zoning board met to consider the same proposal from Carlson but the members voted 5-0 to deny the request for a rehearing. Member Corey Giroux, an attorney, said that his research indicated that the town is not required to notify state agencies about planning-related hearings.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., in the April 18, 2017.
MORE: The Concord Monitor featured an article on this week’s planning board meeting in Tuesday’s edition. Read it here.