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Select Board roundup: Proposed gun club amendment sparks debate; alarms raised about budget

by | Feb 28, 2023 | Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

During a public information session about the five proposed general bylaw amendments at Tuesday’s Select Board meeting, questions were raised about an amendment seeking to ban gun clubs from shooting outside.

A citizens’ petition proposed that gun clubs move indoors to protect “we the people, babies, animals and birds” from noise pollution.

Resident Peggy Barton spoke in support of the measure, saying the Hopkinton Sportsmen’s Association gun club off Lumber Street has been “the bane of my existence.” She said it prevents her from resting and relaxing at her home.

Bob Draper, president of the Hopkinton Sportsmen’s Association — one of four gun clubs in town — said the proposed amendment would violate state law. The club’s attorney noted that the HSA was in compliance with noise regulations when it was opened in 1931, and state law dictates that no new restrictions can be placed on it.

“Basically in the essence of the law, what the people are asking for cannot be done,” Draper said.

Chair Amy Ritterbusch noted that while it appeared the existing gun clubs likely would not be affected by any new amendment, any new club might be subjected to the new rules.

Former Select Board chair Brendan Tedstone said he was aware of a similar situation in Wayland in which an amendment was passed limiting gun clubs, but the state threw it out. He acknowledged that the Select Board could not prevent the amendment from going to Town Meeting but said it would not stand even if passed.

Another proposed amendment that drew some interest deals with short-term rentals. Residents of Pike Street, after dealing with an issue with irresponsible behavior at a short-term rental on their street, brought the idea forward. The amendment calls for the adoption of licensing requirements for rentals of between 2-30 days (rentals of less than two days would not be permitted).

Board member Irfan Nasrullah questioned the need for the amendment, saying it was his understanding that neighbors have the ability to complain to short-term rental companies if someone is not following rules and have it addressed.

Pike Street resident Amy Comcowich, who said she owns a short-term rental of her own in the Berkshires, said that’s not the case. “These companies are in the business of making money,” she said, adding, ‘There is no mechanism” in place to get solutions to problems such as the one on Pike Street.

Added Pike Street resident Brent McKenzie: “I think the language of this bylaw is not onerous at all. It’s very reasonable. I would think any law-abiding, rule-following citizen of Hopkinton would think it would be reasonable.”

Another proposed bylaw change would require dogs to be leashed all 24 hours (excepting certain dogs, such as guide dogs and police dogs). The current law does not include overnight hours.

The other two proposals deal with a housekeeping item to fix the wording related to the name change of the Select Board (from Board of Selectmen) and bring Hopkinton within compliance with a state law requiring town meeting minutes to be released within 30 days.

The amendments will face a vote at the May 1 Annual Town Meeting.

Elementary school plan endorsed

The Select Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to endorse the plan for a new elementary school on Hayden Rowe Street that would house Grades 2, 3 and 4.

Members of the Elementary School Building Committee presented a brief recap of what led to their decision to select the Hayden Rowe “Village” option.

ESBC member Tiffany Ostrander shared that the new school would have three floors with three wings. Each wing would have about six classrooms along with additional rooms. Each wing also would have availability for expansion if needed in the future.

ESBC chair Jon Graziano addressed what he said were the two primary concerns: cost and traffic

The project is estimated to cost about $174 million, and the Massachusetts School Building Authority is set to contribute around 25 percent, Graziano said.

For comparison, Marathon School, which opened in 2018, cost about $43 million to build. This new school will be significantly bigger and have improved technology, but the biggest reason for the spike in price is the steep rise in construction costs over the past few years, Graziano said, noting that construction costs have essentially doubled since Marathon was built.

The new school would be situated on the eastern portion of the site, which is just south of Marathon School. Graziano said the location makes it a little costlier but allows the school to be placed farther back on the site and help alleviate traffic issues, as cars will queue on the access road instead of backing up on Hayden Rowe.

Alarms raised about budget

During a discussion about the town’s budget, Select Board member Muriel Kramer noted the huge school projects coming up and said the town almost assuredly will lose its Triple-A bond rating due to the large amount of funds the town will be borrowing.

She said the town desperately needs to tighten its belt immediately.

“There are places that we are going to have to trim our requests, because we cannot afford them,” Kramer said. “That’s the bottom line. We can’t spend money we don’t have,”

Ritterbusch questioned what could be cut without sacrificing town services. She noted the large increase in trash pickup, for example.

Kramer suggested the town work on a strategy to address the multi-year spending plan.

“We really have to do something now to save ourselves for five years from now,” concurred Mary Jo LaFreniere.

Misc.: Marathon permit approved

The board unanimously approved a permit for the 127th Boston Marathon on April 17.

Boston Athletic Association President and CEO Jack Fleming said the organization “put greater resources into some elements of the start.” Among the changes are the housing of the professional, adaptive and wheelchair athletes in tents on the Town Common and a public viewing area with stands on the north side of the Town Common.

The board also voted to acknowledge Ashland on the 100th anniversary of the last time Ashland hosted the start of the race. With encouragement from Tim Kilduff, executive director of the 26.2 Foundation, the Hopkinton Center for the Arts will host an event April 6, with officials from both towns invited.

13 Comments

  1. Beth Gallagher Malloy

    I have lived on Lumber Street for 25 years. We are actually situated very near two gun clubs. The one on Lumber Street and the one in Milford off of Haven Street (1.5 miles away). I do not own a gun nor will I ever. I don’t like guns. That being said, I knew when I moved here, from Hayden Rowe, that these places existed very close by. They have literally never bothered my family. Never. Not even the dogs we’ve owned over the years. I think it’s ridiculous to ask a gun club to end their outside shooting. We are not in favor of putting this restriction on an existing gun club that has been around town longer than we have.

    • Tony

      I live 1.25 linear miles away from the HSA and the noise still penetrates through my house with the windows closed. We have a new born and the baby cannot sleep when there are active shooters at HSA which we know is ALL day. We moved here because we thought it was a family focused town. Who would want their child to grow up with nonstop gun shots? It’s evident that the Boomer Boys Clubs run the town. They don’t call it Hop-gun-ton for nothin.

  2. Jason Jones

    Can we try to find some common ground? Yes, the ranges were here before all of us moved here, but the town has been significantly developed over the last few decades. I for one, don’t want the ranges to be shut down as its evident a lot of people enjoy what they have to offer. Could the ranges throw the town residents a bone and limit shooting on the weekends? Maybe allow shooting up until 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays? That way skeet and trap would not be impacted and the town residents could enjoy the afternoons outdoors. I think it would go a long way to mending a relationship that appears to be significantly fractured.

    • Robert Boudrie

      You are talking about one side giving up some of its rights enshrined in Massachusetts Law, not a compromise where both sides give and take.

  3. Linda Chuss

    I wonder if a more general noise pollution law would be possible. Then any organization, like the gun clubs, could determine how they can comply.

  4. Linda Parish

    One thing I learned at the community comment session is that it’s illegal in Massachusetts to shoot outdoors at ranges after 10PM. Those of us that live near the Lumber street club know that there are several times a year, particularly on weekends, that some members break this rule.

    • Aaron T

      In our part of town (Maspenock) we have heard a very noticeable increase in fireworks in the past three years, throughout the year and at all hours of the day and night. I’m not saying you haven’t heard guns, but at least at my club I would be shocked if people were shooting after club approved hours. The only exception to that would be people hunting on property. There are certain types of hunting that take place at night (coyote, racoon, etc.), but those really aren’t very popular pursuits. And the more popular deer and turkey hunting start at 1/2 hour before sunrise. Turkey hunting (spring) ends at noon, but deer hunting (fall) goes until 1/2 hour after sunset.

  5. Doug M

    I’ve been a resident of Hopkinton for 35 years. The aggravation concerning the outdoor shooting ranges seems to have really hit a head over the last few years. This should not be surprising considering the values that new residents are paying for Hopkinton property relatively to surrounding communities. I only expect the attempts to limit gun pollution to increase in the coming years.

    For one, the town is adding an outdoor pool/ tennis complex within a few hundred yards of one club. I expect this to only add to the contingency of folks calling to rein in the gun noise.

    Second, I believe it will be very unlikely that the new residents paying $2 million for the new Edgewood homes will take kindly to the range. If the houses don’t sell, we can expect Toll Brothers, a $10 billion company, to lobby the town to reduce the noise pollution.

    The ranges we’re here first! Yes, but these are all issues that ranges will face when they are situated in the middle of moderately populated residential communities. If this latest attempt to quell the noise fails to materialize, expect the residents to try again. I could see the following attempted changes to the town bylaws:

    1. Require the ranges to pay for police details during active shooting hours
    2. Require the ranges to pay for aerial barriers to prevent stray bullets from entering the surrounding communities. (remember the stray bullet from the Southborough club that shattered a little girls bedroom window?)
    3. Require the gun clubs to add noise suppression systems.
    4. Notify the police of every minor infraction believed to be occurring at the ranges. i.e. firing outside of MA mandated hours as another commenter pointed out.

    These measures likely will not reduce the noise pollution, but it will create an unfriendly environment for the ranges to operate. Don’t put that past fed up residents that are reminded every day that they greatly dislike the clubs outdoor operations. I recommend the clubs look to extend an olive branch to the community before measures are enacted that make it near impossible to operate.

  6. Aaron Townsley

    I think these clubs are a good thing for Hopkinton as they are long standing volunteer run organizations that have been gathering places for family and friends in this community for close to a century. And it is pretty rare to have local access to resources like those that existing here. But as others have pointed out, maybe it is inevitable that as home values rise it spurs on gentrification and kills the rural heritage of Hopkinton. It does seems sad to see it go as Hopkinton’s rural character is one of the things that makes this a great place to live. Ultimately, I hope this discussion gets more people interested in joining these clubs and further ensures they can continue to be part of Hopkinton for many years to come. It really is a special thing to have and once they’re gone you’ll never get them back.

    If people are going to legally own firearms we need places for them to practice using them safely. The types of shooting done at the outdoor ranges are trap and skeet shooting with shotguns and 100 yard shooting with rifles, which cannot typically be done indoors. MassWildlife regularly uses our local ranges for their Hunter Safety courses and Learn to Hunt programs (which are free and I would recommend to anyone even remotely curious about hunting or why people do it https://www.mass.gov/info-details/basic-hunter-education-courses). From what I hear living near Hopkinton Sportsman Association, the loudest noises from these ranges are when local police forces are using them for training and qualifications. I think that is also a benefit to have a local resource for police training, but the Town could do a much better job of communicating to neighbours when these events are going to happen and explaining it to the community. Blaming the clubs for rapid fire of police training exercises doesn’t seem fair. (How about a pre-training heads up from the PD in the Hopkinton Independent?)

    And as an aside, those that don’t understand how we fund the care and management of our wildlife and habitat in America should educate themselves about the Pittman Robertson Act. Every shot you hear is literally one of the biggest funding sources for the state and federal work done to protect our wild places here and throughout the country. That includes state parks, our national parks, and everything in between. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittman%E2%80%93Robertson_Federal_Aid_in_Wildlife_Restoration_Act
    And more info on how MassWildlife is funded:
    https://www.mass.gov/info-details/masswildlife-funding

    • J Williams

      You make some great points. I think most people would be supportive of any and all police training.

      That being said, you don’t need a civilian gun club for the police to train. Take Milford for example, the police have their own range. They could use Maspenock, but they choose not to.

      I gathered that many of the residents are discontent with the weekend activity- the police train during the week. If you can solve the weekend noise issues you can probably flip a lot of residents that are against the clubs. Unfortunately, I don’t think the clubs will bend in weekend hours.

    • Robert Boudrie

      The gun clubs in town occupy land that would otherwise be gobbled up by developers to strip of vegetation and trees, build the profit-maximizing type of housing (McMansions), increase the burden on public schools, the town public works department, police, fire, etc. The gun club is responsible for all it’s own roads and paving; once a new development has its roads accepted that falls upon the town) etc.

      The Hopkinton club it’s about 200 acres of land maintained in a park like condition (only a very small percent of the acreage is used for shooting ranges).

  7. Stephen D Small

    I used to miss living in Hopkinton but no longer.
    Close schools in anticipation of 3-5″ of snow?
    Call the cops when you find a dead squirrel in your yard?
    Buy a house next door to a gun club and get all upset when you hear gun shots?

    Yikes!

  8. Rachel Leal

    1. Look at your surroundings before you choose where to rent or buy a home.
    Aside from gun club noise, some residents complain about a trash facility being close to their home. The residents don’t like the truck noise and they’re afraid of rats.
    The trash company was there before the homes were built.
    It would not be financially possible for gun clubs to install outdoor noise barriers.
    2. Trap and Skeet are on weekends to accommodate working members and have daylight.
    Years ago, my babies slept through fireworks events, so I don’t believe gunshots affect your babies nap time.
    3. There is no chance of stray bullets if gun clubs have proper backing in place for target shooting.
    All hunters has to take a safety course and know the area requirements and distance limits within residents.
    4. It would be a waste of tax dollars to pursue this proposal.

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