Shooting range issue packs Township Hall

Written by  Wednesday, 07 February 2018 13:13
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In December, Council reviewed a request from Steve Saunders, of Scanlon Road south of Sydenham, for a letter confirming: a) the Township has no objection to his establishing a private shooting range on his (75 acre) property, and b) there is nothing in the Township’s by-laws which would prevent this use. Private shooting ranges fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Firearms Act which is administered by the Chief Firearms Officer, of the Provincial Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections.

Although not required to, Council decided to hold a public meeting for feedback from residents before proceeding: tonight’s meeting was advertised for four weeks in this newspaper, and on the township’s website. On January 09, Saunders came to COW to try to clarify the nature of his request.

Approximately 60 people, including three children, attended the meeting, and 17 made presentations. Mayor Vandewal opened the public meeting by saying that it would follow the same rules as a statutory meeting, ie: presentations should not exceed 10 minutes, presenters need not repeat points that had already been made, and listeners should be respectful of the speakers. All 17 presentations were succinct: 12 were opposed, 5 in favour, and one undecided. As well, several others who did not speak had sent letters, two or three in favour and a couple opposed.

Those opposed cited dreading the noise of day-long firing, danger to children, neighbours and users of the Cataraqui Trail, loss of property value, frightening horses, and overall incompatibility with the rural and tranquil nature of the area.

Councillor Revill, who was not in attendance at the meeting, sent a report which stated that an unapproved ‘range’ (which Saunders had said he had operated for 18 years) was not legal. Saunders clarified this by saying he had used the term “range’ unadvisedly, for that implied the use of restricted firearms. A person is not forbidden to use an unrestricted firearm on his own property for target practice. Revill’s report also said Saunders was not a member of an approved gun club, and therefore could not have a firing range on his property. Saunders is a member of the Canadian Forces Base Club.

Saunders gave a lengthy reprise of his January presentation, which seemed to add to the evening’s confusion. He also called up Constable Snider of the SF OPP, who reconfirmed the correct definition of the term ‘range’ and said that, as an officer of the peace, it was his opinion that although it was legal for a person to discharge a lawful firearm in a safe manner on their own property, “a regulated range, which is subject to routine and unannounced inspections, is the safest option.”

“You could be sent to the principal for this,” quipped Mayor Vandewal, after Saunders refused to wind up his presentation after more than ten minutes. Vandewal asked three questions: Will this be a private range? (‘yes’); Is the range permit transferrable if you sell your property? (‘no’); Will the range be open to the public? (‘no’).

Saunders asked how his initial simple letter had turned into this meeting, and went on to criticize planner Mills for not having publicized the meeting as he would have if it were a planning issue, spoke of the daily noise of the neighbouring sawmill, called Revill’s letter ‘misinformation’, and pointed out that in spite of his having done target shooting for the past 18 years, more and more houses continued to be built in the neighbourhood, so property values seemed not to be dropping.

Councillor Schjerning read a lengthy letter of support for his motion to facilitate Saunders’ request. Councillor Sleeth moved an amendment: “given the concerns raised tonight, (I recommend) we first refer this to the Corporate Services Committee, asking them to contact the Provincial Firearms Officer and our lawyer for clarification.” Sutherland seconded this, and the amendment passed with only Schjerning opposed. Saunders was clearly frustrated by this outcome.

The Corporate Services Committee meets Tuesday Feb 13, in the Council chambers, at 8:30 am. The meeting is open to the public.

Desert Lake Causeway Concerns
Bill Pedersen came with three questions about the Desert Lake Causeway: have the plans been set for the rebuilding of the causeway; might it be possible to replace some of the sand that washed away in the high water this summer; could the township clean up the ‘orphan lot’ at the west end of the causeway, and thus improve sight lines along the causeway? Public Works Manager Segsworth said the work was planned for the fall, but the plans weren’t drawn up, and there was time for public consultation: at present, his department is doing flow calculations on Holleford Lake. Councillor Sutherland reminded Sigsworth that they had talked about adding a sign indicating a portage point for the James Auld waerway. The sand replacement question should go to the Cataraqui Conservation Authority. The “orphan lot’ is a small triangle beside the road on the edge of a marshy part of Holleford Lake. Interestingly, Pedersen said it was originally the site of the Desert Lake dump. Once the dump was abandoned, it had been covered over and a tourist cabin, now derelict, had been built on top. A reminder that we’ve made some big steps from the not too distant days when a wetland was considered the optimum location for a waste site.

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