The Willow Wood Gun Club in Mahopac, N.Y. constructed the sporting-clay range several years ago, but without the requisite Planning Board approvals and Zoning Board variances. The club is now seeking to build a 14-station sporting-clay range on its 86-acre property and has a site-plan amendment before officials.
The Willow Wood Gun Club in Mahopac, N.Y. is seeking to build a 14-station sporting-clay range on its 86-acre property and has a site-plan amendment before the town’s Planning Board, TAPinto Mahopac reported. Town officials have told the club they will hire their own consultant to review a noise study submitted by the club and they would also like to see a soil-remediation plan to address the potential issue of lead contamination in the ground and adjacent wetlands.
The club constructed the sporting-clay range several years ago but without the requisite Planning Board approvals and Zoning Board variances, TAPinto Mahopac reported. When shooting there began to disturb neighbors, Willow Wood was given a cease-and-desist order. The club is now making efforts to mitigate the noise issue and validate the sporting-clay range, to bring it in line with town ordinances.
At the board’s May 25 meeting, George Calcagnini, president of Willow Wood Gun Club, and Richard Williams, a principal engineer with Insite Engineering, the firm that designed the course, presented the board with a 21-page community noise study, TAPinto Mahopac reported. Prepared by Erich Thalheimer, a Natick, Mass.-based Institute of Noise Control Engineering board-certified acoustic engineer, the study said it “found that shooting noise from the proposed sporting-clays positions fully complies with the governing state statute but could exceed the Carmel noise ordinance limits at two nearby residential properties.
“Consequently, noise mitigation measures were developed in this report for your consideration for implementation” the study continued. “Noise mitigation measures include building or enhancing small noise barriers behind two clays stations, relocating two clays stations, and rotating four clays stations to direct their noise in a less-offensive direction. With the noise mitigation measures in place, full compliance with your self-imposed community noise limit and Chapter 104 of the Town of Carmel Town Code can be demonstrated at all receiving properties.”
State statutes limit the noise level to 90 decibels, Calcagnini said, while the stricter local noise ordinance caps it at 60, TAPinto Mahopac reported. Calcagnini said that the state statute supersedes the town ordinance, but the club was willing to meet the town’s requirements.
“State law would set the limit at 90 decibels. We are trying to be good neighbors and would meet your 60 decibels,” he told the board. “The expert, who has pretty extensive credentials, has come up with mitigation measures. We’d be willing to meet the local statute and we have come a long way toward doing that. But my interpretation is we don’t have to. We could come in say we are going to go with the 90, but we’re not.”
Town planning consultant Pat Cleary said the town would look into the assertion that state law supersedes the local law and said the Planning Board would hire its own consultant to examine the study submitted by the gun club, TAPinto Mahopac reported. The board voted unanimously to hire its own consultant.
“Much of the mitigations they are proposing are based on that study,” he said. “In my own review there were some questions about the assumptions that went into their consultant’s conclusions. State noise ordinance supersedes our noise ordinance? This is an issue for [town attorney] Joe [Charbonneau] to opine on.”
Cleary had other questions about the noise study, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“Is [the noise measured] one station at a time or all of them simultaneously?” he wondered. “Was that taken into consideration in the noise consultant’s report? Were they evaluating the way this course would be used?”
Cleary also raised an issue put forth by a gun-club neighbor regarding spent ammunition and lead deposits on the property, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“Who regulates that? We have reached out to the [state] Department of Environmental Conservation [DEC] to find out if this requires regulation,” he said
Calcagnini said he was unaware of any regulations governing that issue and any type of soil remediation would be voluntary, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“The course is a concentrated area; it’s a dry area and has nothing to do with the DEC,” he said. “As far as I know, the DEC has never attempted to regulate the lead going into areas like that. There are some clubs that after a period of years do a reclamation program. It’s a voluntary thing. Mid-Hudson Sporting Clays over in New Paltz brought in a vendor to strip off the top few inches of soil and separate out the lead shot and then the dirt gets respread out over the same area it was taken from. It was strictly voluntary. The DEC was not involved in any manner.”
Calcagnini said the club has been there since 1955 and there has been no problem with lead, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“It doesn’t make sense to strip off a layer of dirt until you are 10 years out,” he said. “Until you’ve shot a lot of lead out there it just doesn’t make any sense. There are a lot of trees. I don’t know if it would be feasible on the trap fields to do it. I don’t think you could do it. Where they did it at Mid-Hudson it was just a big open field. They didn’t do it in a wooded area.”
Nonetheless, Cleary suggested some system of lead monitoring be implemented, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“This is new to us and resonates a little as a potential concern,” he said. “Could voluntary monitoring be something you would do as a condition of approval?”
Town engineer Rich Franzetti suggested that representative samples be collected to see if any lead is in the soil right now in some of the areas of concern and create a baseline, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“If there is, and remediation has to take place, there are state criteria [to follow],” he said. “[The gun club] doesn’t have to do a lot [of samples], but maybe that would alleviate some of the concerns and … maybe it could be something they could do on an annual basis, or every three years or five years. I don’t know what the schedule would be; it would depend on use.”
Calcagnini said he wouldn’t be opposed to the idea and Cleary said the town would like some details on how such protocols would work, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“I will look into it. I have never seen that kind of forward-looking plan,” Calcagnini said. “I don’t know what it would look like. I will do some research. I’ve never seen one, but it doesn’t mean they’re not out there.
Cleary expressed doubt about a lack of state standards, TAPinto Mahopac reported.
“There are regulations on how much fertilizer you can put on your lawn,” he said. “So, the amount of lead that gets dumped on a commercial facility like this and it’s not regulated seems surprising to me.”