Critics of noise from gun range vocal at hearing

County has no power to regulate business, commissioner says

July 13, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners received an earful yesterday about noise at Deep Run Rifle & Revolver Club Inc. near Union Mills at an informational meeting scheduled in response to neighbors' calls.

But Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge told the crowd of about 80 residents, club members and local officials who showed up for the 90-minute session that the county has no legal authority to regulate the gun range, which dates from the 1940s.

"It was really two citizens calling us about the noise," the Republican said. "Any citizen can call, and we planned a meeting."

The issue is the focus of a lawsuit by several gun club neighbors who are seeking a court order to reduce the noise level and awaits a ruling by Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr.

Burns had a full docket yesterday and was on the bench last night.

Testimony concluded in mid-March, but both sides asked the judge to visit the range before reaching a verdict.

Speaking for the residents yesterday was Kenneth Begly, who has lived across from the range on Deep Run Road for 18 years and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

He told the three commissioners, as he told the judge, that the club was not a problem until about 1994, when its membership and activities increased and changed to include noisy events such as bowling-pin and cowboy-action shoots, which use metallic targets.

He played a 13-minute videotape and provided copies to members of the county delegation who attended.

Darlene Lyons thanked the commissioners, saying the club land "was my grandfather's -- he was one of the original members."

But back then, she said, its membership was lower and events infrequent.

"It's the increased activity and the noise," she said. "It's in litigation now, but it's been four months, and I'm feeling ignored. I don't believe that someone else's fun or hobby or sport, I don't believe they have a right to infringe on the peaceful use of our property."

Republican Del. Carmen Amedori, the only local delegate to speak, said: "I'm not real sure [of] the purpose of this meeting -- this case is in litigation. What you've seen here today is a one-sided presentation."

State Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican and chairman of the county's legislative delegation, attended but declined to comment.

Club President David Reazin didn't address the commissioners, but he had said previously that the events are part of a national trend toward more dynamic activities than target shooting, and Deep Run is the only local club to offer them.

Club member Robert W. Schott of New Windsor asked Gouge whether the members might be afforded the same opportunity for a meeting -- and was assured they would be.

Samantha Smith, one of the club's attorneys in the civil suit, spoke for about five minutes.

"I'm not here to demonize anybody. The judge spent five days hearing testimony, expert testimony from the plaintiffs and the gun club. The judge had an opportunity to delve into the issue so much more. He's got an important decision."

But, Smith said, "Carroll Coun- ty has no authority to regulate the gun club."

Gouge agreed, saying at the outset: "There is a trial going on, [and] we hesitated as a board of commissioners to get involved. As a board of commissioners, we do not have any authority about noise at a gun club but there are state regulations that control the noise."

George H. Harman, a program manager in the Maryland Department of the Environment, and David Jarinko, the state's noise-control enforcement specialist, attended.

They told Gouge and Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier that the measured noise levels of up to 100 decibels far exceed other gun ranges in the state -- by as much as 30 times.

"This is with no exception the most extreme case of noise intrusion into a residential area that I have experienced," said Jarinko, who testified in the civil suit. The residents also presented a letter from a Johns Hopkins University hearing expert about the negative effects.

The longest and most impassioned speaker was Jessica DeTello, who is not a plaintiff in the suit but whose repeated calls to Gouge and others helped prompt the meeting. With her two children present, she raised several concerns, at times yelling at club members and telling them, "I am not afraid of you."

Gouge acknowledged after the meeting that she hadn't expected such a turnout or such heat, but didn't mind, "because we are their closest elected officials, and they felt we should be able to make something work for them."

Pub Date: 7/13/99

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