Shooting range rules bounce back to committee

SALEM – An indoor shooting range issue may be returning to the Committee of the Whole to see if there should be separate ordinances for commercial and residential.

The topic came up Tuesday during a meeting of the Rules & Ordinances Committee of city council, which is where the idea of indoor shooting ranges was first introduced last summer, with much of the debate over allowing both commercial and residential.

The committee briefly discussed the issue again, with committee member Rick Drummond suggesting it go back to the Committee of the Whole for input by all seven council members on whether to divide the commercial and residential sections into two different pieces of legislation.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who now chairs the Rules & Ordinances Committee, said she did her own polling of some residents and found that almost no one favored allowing residential indoor shooting ranges. At the same time, though, they didn’t seem to have a problem with a commercial venture that followed all the rules for safety, odor and sound considerations.

She said if the ordinance covers both residential and commercial, then the commercial could lose out by virtue of people being against the residential and voting against it for that reason.

“I would hate to see one shot down by another,” she said.

Councilman Clyde Brown, another member of the committee, said he was leaning toward having two separate ordinances.

During a Committee of the Whole meeting in December, the council members appeared split on the issue of indoor shooting ranges for both residential and commercial. Without taking an actual vote, all seven indicated they would have no problem with a commercial venture as long as it followed strict protocols for installation taking into account safety, odor and noise considerations.

Dickey and Brown both said they wouldn’t support a residential indoor shooting range, with Councilman Jeff Cushman saying he needed more information. The other four members at the time, Councilmen Dave Nestic, Drummond, Brian Whitehill and K. Bret Apple, said they were okay with permitting both commercial and residential.

Apple has since become council president, with Roy Paparodis taking his spot as a councilman at large.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee initially brought forward two ordinances, one for just commercial and one for commercial and residential. Drummond said he then spoke with City Law Director Brooke Zellers who said they should narrow it down to one ordinance.

In other business, the committee agreed to look into drafting an ordinance for a monitoring program related to any drilling that may occur in the city related to the oil and gas industry.

The committee had discussed the issue previously in November regarding a monitoring program that could be modeled after one done in Athens. Dickey had researched the ordinance in Athens and said the imposition of a monitoring fee could help protect residents by paying for a monitoring program of the air, water and ground. The program could help pay for fire or police equipment required to respond to a spill or emergency at a facility and provide training for first responders.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Dickey said there’s a big push in the community of people saying the city is being negative to business. She questioned if there would even be enough drilling to warrant putting a monitoring program in place and wondered if they should table any action for now.

Drummond, though, said it may not be an issue now, but could become one down the road. He said they should keep going forward and suggested instead of a fee treat it as a deposit, with a portion returned when a company leaves. He said these were all options the city could take to mitigate any potential issues if they occur.

Dickey planned to get something in writing for their next committee meeting set for 6:30 p.m. March 27.