Basalt council wades into shooting range debate
August 26, 2009
BASALT – Basalt officials entered into a shooting range controversy with caution Tuesday night.
The majority of the five Town Council members attending a meeting said they have heard complaints from residents about an increasing amount of noise coming from the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s shooting range near Lake Christine. They said they are willing to work with residents and the wildlife division on some “reasonable” attempts to muffle the noise, but they don’t know what those steps will be.
“The town should weigh in on the issue, I think,” said Councilman Chris Seldin. “It’s a significant issue and warrants more time than we can give it tonight.”
Councilwoman Amy Capron agreed that the town government should try to “foster communication” between its constituents and the wildlife division. Mayor Leroy Duroux said he would be willing to participate in the issue as long as it didn’t turn into an “us versus them” situation between shooters and people concerned about the noise.
The controversy over the shooting range has flared up every few years for decades. Mike Luciano and another Basaltine approached the council Tuesday asking the board to intervene on the behalf of residents bothered by the noise. The sound from the shooting permeates their homes at times and is impossible to escape. Complaints to the wildlife division and town have gone largely ignored for years, they said.
Both men stressed that they aren’t trying to close the facility. They just want the noise reduced.
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Luciano said it is a privilege to use the shooting range but a right for town residents to enjoy peace and quiet. “No matter where you are, a right trumps a privilege,” he said.
One of the men warned that if there is no compromise, “maybe then we go to war with these guys.”
They asked the council to sign a letter to the wildlife division urging the state agency to enclose the shooting range in a building. Until that enclosure is built, they want the range closed on Sundays.
Council members said they doubt that it is feasible to enclose the range because of the cost. The wildlife division has made it clear it cannot fund such a project.
Supporters of the shooting range questioned why the issue is arising now since the shooting range has been at the same place for decades.
“If you move next to an airport, there’s probably going to be noise,” said John Swanson.
But Councilman Pete McBride said the noise from the range has increased in recent years. He and other audience members claimed that coincides with increased commercial use of the facility. Some for-profit companies in the valley bring customers to the range to practice target shooting.
McBride said he supports the continued operation of the range, including Sundays. But he agreed that the town should urge the wildlife division to enforce the hours of operation.
The facility is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Several speakers said the hours are ignored by some shooters.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he would be willing to search for “real solutions to mitigate the noise.” Funding an enclosure doesn’t appear reasonable, he said.
He challenged Kerr and Luciano to show that the noise is really a concern for a portion of Basalt residents. “I don’t hear that many complaints about the gun range, I really don’t,” he said.
Seldin also said it would be helpful for the council to gauge the level of concern among residents. He suggested that Kerr and Luciano work with the town staff to develop some history of the issue, the level of concern and possible solutions. Town Manager Bill Kane suggested the staff might establish a citizens’ committee, with shooting enthusiasts and noise complainers, to delve into the issue.
Until then, town officials urged a wildlife officer attending the meeting to enforce the hours more diligently.