2017-04-06 / Front Page

Target shooting ordinance in the barrel again

BY TIM RIEL


CORRECTION The target range map in the March 30 The Jamestown Press was incorrect. The permitted and restricted areas were reversed. Here is the correct version of the map. We regret the error. CORRECTION The target range map in the March 30 The Jamestown Press was incorrect. The permitted and restricted areas were reversed. Here is the correct version of the map. We regret the error. After missing the first two targets, the town councilors are taking aim again at whether to regulate recreational shooting or keep it off the books.

A 7 p.m. public hearing scheduled for Monday is the third attempt to settle the contentious debate surrounding seven private ranges. The councilors will consider two proposed ordinances during this latest effort.

“Remember, there is a third option,” Town Administrator Andy Nota said. “The council doesn’t have to vote.”

Although state law forbids shooting in compact areas, it does not define those zones. Instead, the state places the burden on municipalities. Both of the proposed ordinances put forward by Nota define Conanicut Island as a compact area, although one of those laws has exceptions.

The first measure is prohibition, which means target shooting would be outlawed anywhere on Conanicut Island. The second proposal, however, allows shooting in RR-200 and RR-80 zones with regulated times and setbacks. Shooting would be permitted on private properties in those zones, which are limited mostly to the Beavertail peninsula, the Highland Drive-Fort Wetherill area and north of the Great Creek sans the Jamestown Shores neighborhood. Shooting, however, is only allowed if the point of discharge is at least 500 feet from any building, including houses, sheds and garages, unless written permission is secured from that neighbor. Moreover, the sport would be restricted to 10 a.m. to 30 minutes before sunset, with 6 p.m. being the absolute latest. Shooting also would be prohibited on Sundays.

Although the zoning ordinance requires roughly 2 acres for a property to be zoned RR-80 and 5 acres in the RR-200 designation, there are homes that don’t conform to the law. So with permission from neighbors within 500 feet, Nota said, landowners would be able to shoot on properties smaller than a half acre. “We didn’t address the nonstandard lots,” he said. “With permission, it does offer some flexibility.” Neither proposal affects hunting or self-defense. The passionate debate has been ongoing since September 2014 when East Shore Road resident

Chris Cannon filed a complaint about a shooting range across the street from his house. In response, an ordinance panel of

Nota, Police Chief Ed Mello and

Councilwomen Kristine Trocki and Mary Meagher vetted possible regulations for much of 2015.

With the panel’s recommendation, a first public hearing was conducted in April 2016, but no vote was taken following three hours of debate. The councilors instead directed Nota to draft an ordinance using feedback from the meeting. Four months later, a second public hearing concluded with the same results.

Although the ordinances have been advertised, Town Solicitor

David Petrarca previously said changes could be made during the hearing.

“There is a decent ability to amend the ordinance,” he said.

“Having two ordinances gives more flexibility.”

Petrarca said the council could amend an ordinance during a public hearing and still adopt the measure. It just has to stay

“somewhat” consistent with the advertised ordinance, he said.

“The courts aren’t very precise,” he said. “It’s not like there’s a word limit. It has to do with the spirit and tenor of the advertisement.”

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