Builder of Warner gun range undeterred by judge’s ruling

  • A sign at the location for Dragonfly Holdings LLC’s future indoor gun range and retail store in Warner. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Thursday, August 03, 2017

The builder of a gun range in Warner is not going to stop clearing his land, despite a court order voiding one of the permissions granted by the town’s land use board.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara ruled in late July that the Zoning Board of Adjustments lacked jurisdiction to grant Dragonfly Holdings, LLC, a special exception allowing the company to build the range because two of the abutters, the town of Hopkinton and the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission, were not properly notified of a public hearing to discuss the range’s application.

But the builder of the range, Eric Miller, said the decision isn’t going to affect work on the site, according to the Dragonfly Ranges LLC Facebook page.

“Considering the time that the boards in Warner have invested into my application and the financial costs the town has spent defending the decision of both boards in court ... it is more important than ever to continue to do all possible land improvements (shy of digging the foundation or anything else that I do not have a permit for ... yet) to signal my commitment to this project,” Miller wrote on Facebook.

The decision means the ZBA’s decision is completely void and the case must be reheard in its entirety, according to Merrimack County Superior Court documents.

“When proper notice is not given to all abutters, then a ZBA lacks jurisdiction to hear an application for a special exception. If a ZBA lacks jurisdiction, then the granting of a special exception is invalid and of no effect, it confers no rights upon the applicant, and is void from the date it was issued,” McNamara wrote in the order.

The court case was brought by MadgeTech Inc., which abuts the range’s location and whose owner, Norm Carlson, has been opposed to the range from the beginning. Carlson has previously said his electronics company would be unable to maintain and attract employees if the gun range was approved, because its workers would feel unsafe. MadgeTech has also expressed a desire to complete a $3 million addition to their facilities, but has said they will not do so if the indoor gun range is completed and may leave their location if the gun range was approved.

The question of whether a gun range should be allowed in Warner has been hotly contested for months. The ZBA granted a special exception in March, but the application caught the attention of Hopkinton residents when it went before Warner’s planning board in early April.

After delaying a public hearing because all abutters were not properly notified, the planning board heard several hours of testimony from mostly Hopkinton residents who were concerned with the range’s potential the impact on the town’s schools, character and environment.

The location for the range is just off Interstate 89’s northbound Exit 7 and is two-fifths of a mile from Hopkinton’s town line and 2 miles away from Hopkinton Middle High School.

The Warner planning board decided that the application had the potential for regional impact. The Warner ZBA decided not to rehear the application.

The planning board unanimously approved Dragonfly Holdings’s application on June 20, capping off two months and six meetings’ worth of discussion. Approval of the project came with a series of requirements, including signage at the entrance of the range that warns about the hazards of lead poisoning; no selling or consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs on the premises; and that noise from the range not exceed 45 decibels as heard from the perimeter of the property.

Documents show that the land for the gun range was sold to Miller on July 17. Miller said he has since been granted an intent to cut trees permit, a driveway permit and an Environmental Protection Agency stormwater permit. He said the building site was cleared of trees July 20.

Warner’s ZBA typically meets on the second Wednesday of every month. No meeting is scheduled as of Aug. 3.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309 or candrews@cmonitor.com.)