A new shooting range slated to formally open this weekend is raising fears about noise in the town of Woodstock, New Hampshire.
Opponents, though, appear to have little recourse as the mountain town of fewer than 1,500 residents has no noise ordinance on the books, and state statute protects shooting ranges from nuisance claims.
Gold Bess Shooting Club is slated to open October 31 on the grounds of a gravel pit a little more than a mile from downtown.
Nearby businesses warn that the sound of repeated gunshots could drive away customers who come to region in part for its quiet appeal at a time when tourism is already impacted by the coronavirus.
“We’re not for this at all,” said Lorraine Logiudice, who owns the 15-unit Meadow Lark Motor Court. “We aren’t opposed to a gun range. Just not one half a mile from our business.”
The shooting range is located off of Route 3, which sits in a valley along the Pemigewasset River. Neighbors say the landscape could further compound the sound of gun fire by creating echoes that will reverberate up and down the river.
“I love guns. I love to shoot. And it’s not about that,” said Kurt O’Connell, who owns a home near the range. “I’m not against the guns. I’m against the noise.”
Earlier this month, O’Connell joined a group of residents who expressed concerns during a Board of Selectmen meeting. After seeking out a legal opinion, town officials said there is little recourse to either stop the range from opening or to limit its hours of operation.
“The Town of Woodstock does not have zoning, there is no site plan review process and no noise ordinances that would give the selectmen the right to regulate activities such as a shooting range,” said Selectmen Scott Rice, who owns the Woodstock Inn Brewery, which hosts events including weddings.
“On the personal side, I am concerned about any type of activity that could affect tourism, which is the lifeblood of the area,” he added.
The range’s owner, Chris Caulder, 23, said he is taking steps to limit the impact on neighbors, including positioning the range near the back of the family-owned gravel pit. He said the range will operate from 8am to 5pm daily, and provide professional instruction to those looking to learn gun safety skills.
“Both family and friends have been shooting at our range since 2017,” said Caulder. “We've never had any issues shooting up there and I was very surprised to see some individuals so opposed to my business.”
Caulder said the nearby White Mountain Motorsports Park also creates sound heard well beyond the race track.
While residents concerned about the gun range haven’t yet filed any legal action, a slate of laws passed in 2004 would appear to shield ranges from nuisance lawsuits.
Jim Aliberti, who operates nearby Maple Lodge Cabins, said the sound of gun shots could prompt his customers to leave negative online reviews, which would hobble his business.
“I know I’m going to get ripped on my ratings,” said Aliberti in reference to noise from the gun range. “I just know it’s coming.”