One Down, One To Go
by Paul Saulnier 12/11/12
After successfully crushing Bullard Memorial Farm's efforts to establish a solar farm in their neighborhood, Bullard Street residents have set their sights on ending shooting at the Holliston Sportsmen's Association.
HSA (The Holliston Sportsmen's Association) readily joined in with residents when asked to oppose the solar farm. In existence since 1936, HSA is home to an indoor pistol range and an outdoor trap range.
They have been allowed to shoot seven days a week during daylight hours since 1958. Most activity occurs on weekends with regularly scheduled trap shooting sessions on Saturday mornings from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and special events on some Sundays.
In the past, the club has hosted events geared towards families and the public. Members were shocked to hear of the neighbors' demand to shut down shooting at the property.
In a letter dated November 19, 2012, to Peter Tartakoff, Building Inspector & Zoning Compliance Agent, seventeen residents wrote:
"Residents of Bullard Street are submitting this complaint in response to repeated violations by the Holliston Sportsmen’s Association (HSA) located at 137 Bullard Street of Holliston’s Noise Performance Standards as specified in Section V-N, 4 of the Zoning By-Laws. Specifically, the By-Law states that “No use shall be permitted within the Town of Holliston which, buy(sic) reason of excessive noise therefor, would cause nuisance or hazard to persons or property.”
The letter goes on to allege that noise has increased to levels above legal limits since HSA has allowed non-members to shoot there. Residents have taken their own sound measurements and believe that they are higher than allowed by law, concluding:
"We ask that all firing of shotguns at the HSA cease immediately in order to comply with Holliston’s Noise Performance Standards."
Residents are also concerned about recent earth moving activity on the property and have asked the Conservation Commission to inspect possible violations of the Wetlands Protection Act. In a letter to Mr. Allen Rutberg, Chair – Conservation Commission, the same 17 residents wrote:
"The Conservation Commission, in exercising its responsibility to protect Holliston’s wetlands, should have had the opportunity to review the Holliston Sportsmen’s Association proposal to build a shooting range near perennial streams and associated wetlands. Residents of Bullard Street also believe the proposed shooting range will be constructed in a ground water protection area established for well # 5 off Central Street. Therefore, we believe it is appropriate for the Conservation Commission to determine if the shooting range is subject to the Wetlands Protection Act, Holliston’s Wetlands By-Laws, or/and other appropriate acts due to its proximity to these sensitive environmental areas."
The letter includes nine points they want the Commission to consider and concludes with: "Until the Conservation Commission rules on the project, we ask that all work on the project immediately cease."
In an email to residents, Tartakoff did not agree with residents and offered his opinion to the complaint addressed to him:
"As I stated in my e-mail last week after receipt of your prior complaint, I have taken the time to look into the Town's past records as well as contact the Sportsmen's Association to get some historical information that would be pertinent to making a judgement regarding this matter. As of this date I have found sufficient information to date the Sportsmen's Association and its activities to a time before the Towns Zoning by-laws. Since the club and its activities as well as its membership population are consistent thru time, it is my opinion that they are lawfully in existence and are not required to comply with the current standards set forth in our current Zoning by-laws.
"As far as your concerns about the improvements being made to better accommodate activities that previously existed, I am not able to find any regulations in the State Building Code which would require a building permit for an earthen berm nor am I empowered to cause them to follow any of the standards mentioned in your letter of complaint. I am also of the opinion that there is no expansion involved that would trigger a site plan review process under the Zoning by-law."
Mark Heavner, one of the directors of HSA, and Frank Matyi, President of HSA, met with Conservation Agent, Chuck Katuska, on site to review the work on the earthen berm. Heavner said that Katuska found that the work did not violate the Wetland Protection Act as it was more than 100 feet away from any wetland resources. Katuska did not return a call to his office prior to publication.
Matyi recalled being approached by the solar proponents and the Bullard Street residents. He told both that "we don't have a dog in this fight" but HSA decided to support the neighbors as the neighborly thing to do. "We put signs all along our property line to support the effort to keep the field open, our members signed their petitions, and we offered our building for meetings", Matyi recalled.
Bullard Street resident Thomas Gilbert said that he is grateful for HSA's support in the past but feels that shooting on the property has increased significantly. "We understand that they have a right to be there but they have to understand that times have changed since they began and they have to be sensitive to that," Gilbert said. He is concerned about the proposed new outdoor range which he believes will direct fire towards Bullard Street. "What happens if a shot goes over the berm?" Gilbert asked.
Gilbert has been told that the issue will be discussed at the next meeting of the Conservation Commission on December 18, 2012.