BARNSTABLE – Nearly a month after postponing a land swap vote for the town’s shooting range, the Barnstable Town Council at their last meeting approved $25,000 for an environmental assessment of the property.
West Barnstable resident Hillary Sandler, who is opposed to the shooting range re-opening, says there are concerns about assessing the lead contamination. She spoke during public comment at the town council’s meeting on November 6.
Sandler said the assessment is an important step, if it is done right.
“I just want the town to get a good spend for its money, so that we can appropriately guide the actions to restore and safeguard the future health of the West Barnstable Conservation Area,” she said.
The land swap vote has been postponed until the Barnstable Town Council meeting on January 22. The swap would trade 16.3 acres of part of the West Barnstable Conservation area, the land that includes the shooting range, for 17 acres on Breeds Hill Road off Independence Drive.
Sandler says she hopes the assessment will look closely at the property.
“What I really think is the difference here is that we’re really not looking to assess the lead contamination in a gun range, we’re looking to assess the lead contamination of a conservation area. To me it’s just a slightly different spin in attitude of what information we want to garner,” she said.
The shooting range has been operating officially on the property for decades and unofficially for years before that. It was closed abruptly in December 2012 after the town’s insurance company realized that the shooting range was not covered under the town’s plan.
That led to state environmental officials interest in the use of the land, which was originally set aside as conservation property. A shooting range is not one of the uses allowed on the conservation property.
“It was built illegally and now it is contaminating the soil and potentially the water that’s under the conservation area,” Sandler said. Another reason she and other residents would prefer the range not be re-opened is the noise. “The noise certainly bothers quite a lot of the neighbors as well,” she said.
In order to get the shooting range up and running, town officials came up with a plan to set aside another parcel of town-owned property as conservation land and transfer the area that has been used as the shooting range into a municipal property that is not governed by conservation rules.
Sandler said she would prefer another location be found for the shooting range.