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Lansing Rod & Gun Club

Members of 'Citizens for a Healthy Salmon Creek Watershed' asked the Town of Lansing Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Tuesday for an injunction on continued construction at the Lansing Rod & Gun Club.  The club is relocating shooting ranges to conform, in part, with a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent order issued in August of 2016.  But the plan has seen heated opposition by Ludlowville activists and neighbors who say it will impact their health, property values, and quality of life.

"Since a code enforcement officer did not certify to the Board of Appeals a reason for why the gun club should be allowed to continue to build on this, what we feel is an unlawfully issued building permit, we would like you to intervene and have them stop," said Gay Nicholson on behalf of Citizens for a Healthy Salmon Creek Watershed.  "Since the hearing is not scheduled until January 29th, it gives the gun club ample opportunity to completely finish building their new, expanded trap field a second hazardous waste site in the Town of Lansing."

On December 10th Lisa Ruzicka and Tim Farrell and Citizens for a Healthy Salmon Creek Watershed submitted a 25 page appeal with 71 additional pages of attachments, including maps, documents, letters, and research, plus a shooting log kept by Lisa Ruzicka documenting incidents of shooting events from July through December of this year, by date and time, and the number of cars seen at the event.  The attachments also included a petition signed by 110 residents.

Nicholson and Ruzicka said that they had received no acknowledgement from ZBA members that they had received the documents, and complained that construction is ongoing, despite an 'automatic stay' on activities triggered by the appeal.

Ruzicka and Farrell's home borders the gun club property.  The new shooting range would locate shooters 500 feet from a propane tank on the edge of their property line.  ZBA Chairman Hurf Sheldon asked Ruzicka about anticipated impacts of the new range on her and Farrell.

"The noise will be unbearable,"Ruzicka told ZBA members.  "Competitive shooting next to our house on a weekend... we're off work, too, trying to enjoy ourselves.  We think that our property value is going to be diminished.  We're not going to want to live there because the quality of our life and our happiness and our health (will be diminished)".

A note to board members on the cover sheet reads, "Reminder: Upon the filing of this appeal, work on the permitted activity must immediately stop until the appeal is heard at a hearing of the Zoning Board of Appeals (NYS Department of State, Division of Local Government Services, 'Guidelines for Applicants to the Zoning Board of Appeals', by James A. Coon, 2015)."

The appeal claimed Code Officer Lynn Day exceeded his jurisdiction when he issued a building permit to the club, allowing a non-conforming use without a variance from the ZBA.  In a presentation at an October public meeting, Day said that his interpretation was that the plan does meet town code.

"The plans do not call for use of any portion of their 113 acre parcel that had not already been in use, including for shooting," he said. "Their club will be using the same land areas after these plans were implemented as were being used for decades.  So based on the building permit application and plan review the Town of Lansing Land Use Ordinance, specifically Article 10, Non-conforming Uses - it is my opinion that this is an existing non-conforming use with no site plan, special permit or dBA review required."

After the permit was issued, Farrell and others accused town officials of lying to them about the issue, singling out Supervisor Ed LaVigne and Town Attorney Guy Krogh, saying during public 'Privilege of the Floor' at a Town Board meeting that it appeared to them that the town officials were colluding with gun club attorneys.

At Tuesday's ZBA meeting Karen Edelstein said that the appeal isn't just about building the new shooting ranges, but also that a larger environmental threat is posed by continuing to fire lead shot without any reclamation efforts.

"That permit was so they could build their shelter and build their parking lot and build their little launch pads," she told the board. "Nobody is discussing the impact that moving that trap field will have on the larger environment.  Nobody is discussing what will be the outcome of loading 3,500 pounds of lead into the environment every single year.  Nobody, because we can't get past this step, is able to discuss the fact that the EPA stipulates that  that lead needs to be reclaimed.  That's either done by a very expensive process of vacuuming it off the field, or using a shot curtain, which is just as expensive."

According to an email reply to questions about club statistics included in documents accompanying the appeal, the 132 member club hosts around 1,800 public shooters per year, with approximately 100,000 shotgun and 1,000 rifle and pistol rounds shot annually.  No lead reclamation activities have been conducted by the club so far.

As Farrell was preparing to speak, Krogh advised board members that they were in danger of violating due process, because the back-and-forth could be construed as a hearing without prior public notice.  He also said that a stay is already in place, but that its purpose is to protect the landowner (the gun club).  A hearing on the appeal is scheduled for January 29th.

"We're starting to get into the underlying basis of the challenge, the issues that were presented on the appeal, you're getting arguments and you're asking people for specific invidious impacts, and those are appeal issues that are supposed to be reserved for the hearing," he warned ZBA members. "The stay is an automatic stay. It's only when the Code officer certifies that the stay should not apply.  That is a determination of the Code Officer that this board can review and overturn and reimpose the stay.  What people are really looking for is an injunction -- that's Section 282, it's not Section 267 -- that's not something you have the power over.

Krogh said the stay protects the landowners, not third parties.  But it only protects them until the ZBA makes its ruling.  Day sent a letter dated December 18 (Tuesday) to the Lansing Rod and Gun Club Tuesday, reminding them of this.

Day wrote, "I've mentioned several times to you that my interpretation could be appealed within 60 days of my decision being filed with the Town Clerk, which I filed October 12, 2018 and revised October 17, 2018.  So at this time I'm reminding you, that you are proceeding with construction at your own risk.  If my interpretation / determination is overturned by the ZBA and you lose an appeal you would have to take down any structures that you have built in reference to building permit #18-153."

Krogh warned ZBA members that they must not act in any way that appears that they are hearing an appeal or making a ruling until the actual hearing.

"You're the quasi-judicial body that's going to hear the appeal," Krogh advised board members. "You're the judge.  You're supposed to stay neutral and detached from all of this petitioning and arguments until such time as you assemble the record and have your hearing.  That's when all these arguments should come forward."

"In all fairness I don't want to taint the process, so I think we'll stop right here," Sheldon said.

Town Councilman Joe Wetmore acknowledged that the hearing should be conducted properly, but suggested that it is within their power to reschedule it sooner.

"I hear the public worried that another month and a half is going to taint the process as well," he said. "You do have the ability to move your meeting forward so it would happen sooner rather than later so that the issues that have been brought up can be dealt with at a hearing, properly noticed, with assembled documents.  Maybe that's a solution you can look at."

The Board met with Krogh in private session to receive legal advice.

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