Monadnock Rod and Gun Club cited for wetlands, zoning violations

  • The Monadnock Rod and Gun Club. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, July 27, 2018 1:55PM

The Peterborough Monadnock Rod and Gun Club on Route 202 was searched by town police and wetland scientists Wednesday, a month after the club failed to comply with a cease and desist order that alleges wetland and code violations.

“They say there are wetland violations. I’ve asked three times for them to tell me where the club did this, and they wouldn’t answer,” said Penny S. Dean, attorney for the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club. “If you know for a fact that the club has done this, you should be able to tell me where. We have a fishing expedition.”

Wetland surveyors were let onto the Peterborough Monadnock Rod and Gun Club property on Wednesday after police served a warrant to allow the surveyors to check the property for violations.

In a press release issued by the town of Peterborough, the town alleges it was made aware of possible violations, and requested permission to enter and inspect the property, which was denied. The town then issued a notice of violation and a cease and desist order against the club, with a second request to inspect the property, which was again denied. 

At that point, according to the release, the town sought an administrative search warrant from the Jaffrey District Court, which was executed on Wednesday. 

When contacted, the town’s code enforcement officer, Tim Herlihy, directed questions to the press release issued by the town. 

“The purpose of the inspection was to determine the existence and extent of violations of the town of Peterborough’s zoning ordinance, site plan review regulations and state building code and other applicable laws, and determine the corrective action necessary to address any observed violations,” the release read. 

The violations cited in the cease and desist order include the firing range relocating and expanding without approval by the town’s code enforcement officer, filling wetlands without the required permits and approvals, that the expansion of the club placed ranges within the Groundwater Protection Overlay Zone which prohibits the handling, processing or disposing of lead that could contaminate the soil, that the expansion of the club didn’t undergo a site plan review process as required, and that it did not obtain a building permit.

The cease and desist order requires that the club cease “all operations of the facility as it relates to use of the firing range and the firing range building” until all permits and approvals are obtained. It requires the club apply for approval of variances from the Zoning Board of Adjustment and site plan review from the Planning Board, in addition to permits from the town’s code enforcement officer. 

Dean said the search of the property was a “fishing expedition,” and said that the town hasn’t been specific enough about where the violations are, and she has not gotten adequate responses to her questions on the matter. Also, she said, the warrant was applied for on July 20, ten days before the club’s July 30 deadline to comply with the cease and desist orders to apply for the needed permits. Dean also pushed back against the violation against “on-site handling, processing, recycling, disposing, or storing of hazardous or toxic materials,” in this case referring to lead. The shooting range doesn’t fall into any of those categories, argued Dean.

“The regulations that [the code enforcement officer] is citing, there’s no one handling, moving or storing lead,” she said. 

The town alleges that the area in dispute is on the eastern side of the property, and that aerial photographs show that the shooting range has expanded towards the north. Dean said that based on that description, she believes most of the violations are related to a portion of the outdoor shooting range that includes a concrete slab with a metal roof over it.

One of the issues with the range is that it extends onto property believed to be owned by the range’s neighbors, Scott and Bridgette Perry, according to the town’s cease and desist letter.

Dean said that the club has been operating on that land, including doing shooting demonstrations, dating back to the 1950s, and is contesting the land’s ownership through “adverse possession” – meaning that the club has essentially occupied and used the land exclusively and without challenge for long enough to have a claim on it. The club has filed a civil suit with the Perry family over the ownership of the land, which will be settled in civil court.

Dean said the “barrage” of town violations only came to light in the weeks after the club filed that civil suit, and alleged that the town was favoring the Perry family in the dispute. 

The town denied that claim in its press release.

“Contrary to certain statements made publicly by others, the town is not taking a position with regard to any private dispute between the club and any abutting property owners,” the release said.