Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Plan for shooting range draws fire from residents

by on October 03, 2013 10:59 AM

BUFFINGTON TOWNSHIP — Some residents are unhappy with the Dilltown Sportman’s Club’s construction of a new shooting range, but those behind the project say plans for the site aim for safety and compromise.

The club started construction on the long-range shooting range less than a month ago. Since then, a number of residents near the site — which is off Dilltown Heights Road near a Ghost Town Trail trailhead — have come forth with concerns about noise, property value and safety.

Last month, club members said, they invited neighbors to their meeting in an effort to allow them to share their concerns.

According to Larry Stinson, the sportsman’s club’s secretary, members are willing to take suggestions on shooting range rules and let residents review any regulations the club puts in place.

“If they want another rule, we’ll consider it,” he said.

Construction of the shooting range continues. A concrete pad has been poured and a shooting bench installed. Members are hoping the site is ready for this hunting season.

Residents in opposition to the site plan to continue speaking out, and they have the opportunity to do so soon.

Neighbors have been invited back for this month’s meeting, taking place at 7 p.m. Friday.

“I feel it’s necessary for me to go, since my house is closest to the range,” said Brian Bowser, a Dilltown Heights Road resident.

His home sits across the road from the long-distance shooting range. He said it’s less than 150 yards from the site.

“We came out here and it was so quiet, there were no neighbors,” he said. “This is basically going to be shattered by the shooting range.”

Bowser moved to his Dilltown Heights Road home about eight years ago.

He also expressed concerns over privacy and what the range’s presence will do to his property value.

According to Wally Putt, broker at Putt Real Estate in Indiana, the addition of a shooting range could possibly affect property value.

“If the location you’re talking about has a possible detrimental effect on the neighborhood, then it’s deterimental,” he said. “But one person’s detrimental is not another’s.”

However, he said, legal considerations of whether a person knew an organization like a sportsmen’s club was in the area when they moved in may be taken into account in a litigation situation.

Before they broke ground on the shooting range, members consulted with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, according to club Vice President Brian Price.

The site, he said, follows the same standards that the game commission applies to its own shooting ranges.

Though it’s not required, he said, club members are willing to construct a 10-foot wall along the part of the property near to the road and to Bowser’s home.

In addition, Price said, the range will be used infrequently, most often during October and November, as members prepare for hunting season.

“This isn’t something where we’ll have a million people in here,” he said. “It’s going to be a safe shooting place.”

In the case of private shooting ranges such as the sportsmen’s clubs, safety zones do not apply, according to Jack Lucas, a wildlife control officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

He said that Price had contacted him when plans were in the preliminary stages and specifically asked about safety zones.

“It’s only the active hunting or trapping, so a shooting range would not fall in that category at all,” Lucas said.

Other regulations, if they exist, he said, may originate at the municipal level.

Price said the club sought township approval late last winter. A March 6 letter from supervisor Robert Eritano approved the shooting range request.

Calls to Eritano and the township office were not returned by press time.

Cindy Lamb, another Dilltown Heights Road resident, expressed concerns over shooting in the proximity of a residential area.

She and her husband, Jim, have lived at their home for about 20 years.

“You have no idea where that bullet is going to go,” she said. “It’s just a big safety issue is what we’re concerned with.”

She created a petition against the range and, she said, about 30 individuals have signed it.

At Friday’s meeting, she said, residents will once again share their concerns.

Other issues that she worries about, she said, are whether bullets will contaminate land and water in the area and whether the land, once a mine refuse site, is clean.

“We all have safety concerns,” Jim Lamb said.

According to Janeen Toy, chairman of the Indiana County Friends of the NRA, lead contamination from bullets at shooting ranges isn’t usually a problem, though it depends on the kind of backstops used to catch the bullets.

Bullets wouldn’t go deep enough into the ground to impact water, she said.

“There’s not a concern it will affect streams,” she said.

At last month’s meeting, concerns over lead were not brought up, according to Stinson.

Those at the club said the site, which was donated years earlier by North American Coal, has been cleaned up.

The coal company undertook a reclamation process, removing waste from the area, according to Stinson.

“They took quite a bit out of the shooting range area,” he said.

The purpose of the site, he said, is not only to provide an area for members to practice shooting, but a way to make something of an unused site.

“We’re going to transform a piece of land that was basically wasteland into something that will be useful and preserved for years to come.”

Those at the club said they decided to put in the new range so that members could practice long-range shooting. The club already has a 90-yard shooting range.

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for the Indiana Gazette. Among her assignments are coverage of the Apollo-Ridge School and Penns Manor Area school districts and also White Township.
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