Indoor gun range and retail store gets Warner Planning Board approval

  • Residents and board members attend the meeting at which the Warner Planning Board approved a long-debated indoor gun range and retail store application Monday night. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/20/2017 12:21:39 AM

After a final volley of debate, the Warner Planning Board unanimously approved Dragonfly Holdings LLC’s proposal for an indoor gun range and retail store off Interstate 89’s Exit 7.

For the board, the Monday night meeting capped off two months’ and six meetings’ worth of discussion about the proposal, which has inspired passionate debate from those for and against the range. But an upcoming Merrimack County Superior Court case against the town of Warner may mean the indoor range proposal is back before Warner town officials sooner rather than later.

The pending day in court was enough to make Dragonfly owner Eric Miller hold off on closing his purchase and sales agreement with property owner Richard George. The case is scheduled to begin Monday, and Miller is waiting to see whether the court will require Warner’s Zoning Board of Adjustment to discuss whether the range has the potential for regional impact.

“Either way, we want our day in court, because the law is on our side,” Miller said.

Approval of the project comes 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, with signage warning customers not to do so; that air inside the range comply with OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit for lead over an eight-hour period; and that noise from the range not exceed 45 decibels as heard at the perimeter of the property.

Miller said the noise condition was the only one he questioned because he was unsure of how noise from the range could be accurately measured. He said noise from the interstate can be heard easily from the location and that it would be difficult to separate the two sources.

A statement of findings, from which planning board Chairman Ben Frost read, outlined the board’s views on several topics that made the range a hot topic for locals. The range inspired particular concern from a group of Hopkinton residents, who submitted verbal and written opinions on the range’s potential to affect the region’s traffic, water quality and whether the presence of the range within 2 miles of Hopkinton Middle High School was dangerous.

The board recognized the public’s concern on the latter issue, according to the statement, but believed “those who would use the proposed indoor shooting range are unlikely to be the perpetrators of crime.”

Another section was reserved for the question of how the range would impact abutting businesses, primarily technology company MadgeTech. The company is the main party in the lawsuit, which chiefly alleges the Warner ZBA failed in its duties by not rehearing the range’s application after the state of New Hampshire was not properly noticed before a public hearing.

Frost said the statement was emailed via blind carbon copy to members of the board prior to the meeting to better solicit input on the statement. Frost said his method of soliciting input was done in compliance with the state’s right-to-know laws.

MadgeTech’s lawyer, Paul Alfano, said he wasn’t so sure.

“You received a supplemental report from the applicant yesterday that I and any of the public haven’t had a chance to read,” he said. “The public is entitled to a meaningful opportunity to read anything the applicant submits and comment on it.”

He then added: “It sounds like some documents were emailed around – that could be considered improper.”

In the past, MadgeTech’s owner Norm Carlson has testified that the presence of the range would make his employees uncomfortable and he would not be able to keep his business at its current location if the range moved in.

But the board’s statement said “it would be inappropriate – indeed, illegal – for it to choose winners and losers among commercial establishments,” when a proposal is allowed within the town’s zoning ordinances, according to the statement.

“The planning board understands that some employees and the owner of the abutting commercial enterprise have concerns about the presence of guns on the subject property, but the planning board’s process does not provide them with a veto over a neighbor’s use of his or her property,” the statement reads.

“While their concerns about guns and gun violence may be legitimate, those concerns must be expressed in a different venue, such as in the New Hampshire Legislature or the United States Congress.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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