Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gun club decision upheld

Register Citizen Correspondent
LITCHFIELD — The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to uphold the zoning enforcement officer’s report regarding the White Oak Gun Club and the Planning and Zoning Commission’s acceptance of that report.
After Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Richard Ducci confirmed the five present board members heard all the testimony and read the volumes of material given throughout the hearings, the board began to deliberate.
The club was an organized, yet informal activity, the board agreed. It was never a business, though money changed hands to contribute to shooting supplies and equipment maintenance. The people who shot at the 185-acre Cropsey property with the late Buck Cropsey, the board said, fired shotguns in groups of five to seven, by invitation, mostly on Sunday mornings. An expansion of this use would not be acceptable, Ducci said.
The board also agreed that there is no difference between the property owner, or a designee, providing the invitation.
Ducci’s feeling, he said, was that Zoning Enforcement Officer Mathew Speck’s report dealt with what historically happened on the property. Speck’s report allowed the continuing use of the same activity, he said. The ZBA, board member Brian McKernan agreed, cannot take away what was done on the property.
Contradictory testimony given by both eyewitness shooters and the Milton neighbors, important to proving expansion of use, was not backed up with data, Ducci said. The Milton neighbors could get dates and recordings of shooting activities and license plate numbers of people entering or leaving the property as data supporting commercialization, he said.
“Is there a commercial activity going on there,” Ducci said. “I don’t know.”
Luckily, he said, the questions before the board were to accept or reject the enforcement officer’s report and zoning commission’s acceptance of that report, not to find out whether commercial activity is going on at the Cropsey property. That will have to go to court, he added. The board agreed.
“No way can people construe that a commercial operation can take place, because it can’t,” Ducci said. “We are in no way condoning a commercial enterprise.”
The Cropsey family, said Attorney Perley Grimes, who represent the Cropseys and shooting instructor Nicholas Boyden, is very gratified that the ZBA upheld the activities.
“They came to the unavoidable conclusion,” he said. “The range and club have been validated for the fourth time. I trust it will be the end of it.”
That does not appear to be the case, as some Milton neighbors mentioned they will continue their fight. Attorney Dwight Merriam, who represents the neighbors, also said after the decision that he does not comment on “pending cases.”
“This is very disturbing, very disappointing,” said Earl Taylor, who has lived next door to the Cropsey property since 1960, before the Cropseys moved in.
Everybody is avoiding the issue that the White Oak Gun Club is making money, he said.
If Mrs. Cropsey, or one of her sons as a designee, invites people to shoot on Sunday morning, Milton resident Susan Lowenthal said, she has no problem with that.
She testified at a prior hearing that she has heard shooting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., not just a few hours on Sundays, she said. The ZBA did not believe similar testimony from a room full of people, she said.
“If the neighbors need to buy a recording studio, we will,” she said.


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