Rensselaerville residents ask gun club for compromise on noise

— From Google Maps

The Rensselaerville Rod and Gun Club lies just beyond the Rensselaerville hamlet, where residents have complained about the noise of the shooting. 

RENSSELAERVILLE — Seventy-five Rensselaerville residents have signed a petition to show their displeasure with the noise generated by a local gun club, which says that its shooting falls well within the regulations set by New York state. 

The Rensselaerville Rod and Gun Club has been especially active lately, after it began to host students from Greenville Central Schools and other districts through a sporting program that’s held for nine weeks, generally between 3:30 and 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, with around 12 students participating, according to club members who addressed the town board at its June 8 meeting

Club member Craig Bouvier said that the club is involved with the Tri-County Trap League and has a “fairly large team” that’s “very competitive.” Club Vice President Scott Wank said the shooters meet for practice on Thursdays from about 5 to 7 p.m.

In addition to those regularly scheduled sessions, the club holds various events and tournaments throughout the year. Members are also allowed to use the shooting range at will, from dawn to dusk, with activity levels fluctuating over the year and likely peaking during hunting season, Wank said. 

President Robert Tanner told The Enterprise that the club currently has around 68 members, with a cap of 100 so that the group doesn’t grow beyond the point at which the organizers feel they can manage it.

Tanner said he lives about a mile from the club and that free-shooting is not especially common or prolonged. 

“You’ll hear somebody go up and shoot for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and then that’s it,” he said. “Once in a while you get a couple guys who go up there for an hour or two and target-practice and stuff.”

Even during deer season, he said, there’s only about an hour or two of shooting over the course of a day. 

Having the school team practice at the club made for “100 percent more activity,” Tanner said. 


Noise ordinance

In the absence of a local law, New York State General Business Law restricts the noise of small-arms fire to 90 decibels for a one-hour period, or 85 decibels over eight hours, as measured 100 feet away from the property line, and no shooting can occur between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

To show it was within these limits, the gun club conducted its own sound study using equipment rented from SGS Galson, an industrial hygiene company, said club Vice President Scott Wank, who added that he had consulted with the company’s engineers about which meter to use and how to calibrate it correctly. 

“There were five test points,” Wank said. “One is 95 feet from our property line and then there are some other test points around town … The tests that we did show the highest level to be at 83 decibels, A-weighted, for the one particular site.”

A-weighting refers essentially to the way sound-measuring equipment accounts for loudness as it’s experienced through the human ear, which perceives some frequencies better than others, and is the method that New York state requires in the law. 

“They range down from 83 to 57, 67, 60, and 81,” Wank said. “So all values are below the minimum to not exceed the 85-decibel reading for eight hours of continuous fire.”

Resident Sue Britton said that at her home, across from the gun club, her phone measured 90 decibels when shots were fired using two different apps. 

“Now these were taken … on my front porch, and at 713 feet from the shooting area at the club,” she said.

Britton stressed that she was not anti-gun and praised the club for involving students in shooting and safety lessons, but said the noise “will take you right to the ceiling out of your bed.”

“Events are being held on Sunday, sometimes beginning at 7 a.m., and this is especially distracting while church services are being held on a Sunday,” she said. 

Britton said that “none of this was an issue” until the school trap-shooting club started up this spring.

She said she has scheduled a meeting with the club’s board of directors later this month to discuss solutions. 

“We’re not asking for the gun club to be shut down, nor are we asking for members’ rights to shoot be taken away,” she said. “This is entirely a public noise nuisance.”

Rensselaerville’s zoning law does not have many specific restrictions on noise, with decibel limits set only for wind facilities, which are to be at or beneath 40 decibels at the property line. Otherwise, where noise is considered, the law generally says that it should be controlled for various uses, such as light industry and mobile home parks, but does not lay out a standard. 

The gun club, located on County Route 353, southwest of Lake Myosotis, lies just beyond the Rensselaerville hamlet, in Resource Conservation District 1. 

The purpose of RCD 1, according to the zoning law, is “to promote very low density residential development and other low intensive uses consistent with the capability of the constrained land to support such issues,” in addition to the purpose of all resource conservation districts, which is “to protect sensitive environmental areas that contribute to the environmental quality, ecological functioning, rural character, scenic character, and recreational opportunities in the Town.”

Hamlets are protected by noise from commercial uses, but only commercial uses that are located within the hamlets, with the law saying they “shall not constitute a nuisance to the neighborhood due to hours of operation, noise, or loitering.”

“I just feel that as sportsmen we have rights, and this law is providing us protection,” Bouvier told the board. “I don’t have a problem with trying to work something to make it easier for all, but I don’t want to commit to saying we’re only going to do nine weeks and we’re going to do one night a week. I mean, maybe another event comes in, and we don’t want to have to ask permission for something that we have a legal right … to do.”


Community reaction

Penny Grimes, who lives in the Rensselaerville hamlet, said that she had done most of the canvassing for the petition, and that the vast majority of residents she visited in the hamlet were willing to sign the petition. 

She also relayed the experiences of some of the people she spoke with, including a young girl who frequently goes out for runs and gets scared when she hears the gunfire. 

“When I’m out running, I think I’m safe — well, maybe I’m safe — but it’s scary,” Grimes quoted the girl as saying. 

Grimes also said that another resident told her that, when their parents were in town, they called the police when they heard gunfire “because they had no idea what was happening, and they were afraid there was so much gunfire.” 

She said that residents have suggested installing noise barriers of some kind, “or other mitigation measures that might help muffle the noise.” 

“But nobody — I just want to make this very clear — nobody said anything about your gun rights, or we don’t want this, or anything like that,” Grimes said. “It was like, OK, well, can something be done?”

Tanner told The Enterprise that he feels good compromising with the concerned residents since some are good friends of his, and he knows it’s just about making the area as habitable as possible without severely limiting recreational opportunities. 

“We want to be good neighbors,” he said. “We want to make everybody happy. We don’t want any animosity … We want to work something out, we just have to figure out how to do it.”

Part of the difficulty is that, as weather conditions change, so does the way noise travels, meaning that some days are just inherently noisier, Tanner said. 

“If we could get the wind to blow a certain direction all the time, we’d be all set,” he said. 

Responding to the value of “peace and quiet” — often cited in discussions about what should or shouldn’t take place in a rural area — Tanner said that people underestimate how loud rural areas tend to be, with farm machinery and animals and cars and anything else commonly found in more remote communities. 

 “It’s just not really that quiet,” he said. 



The gun club and residents are planning to meet privately on June 20 to come up with possible solutions, with each group presenting its own agenda. 

Tanner said he isn’t sure what the club will be able to do, and is interested in hearing about potential solutions so they can go from there.

“I would say we did a horrible job publicizing this and saying, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do.’ If we did a better job, maybe we wouldn’t be in this position …,” said Tanner. “I did vow to the citizens’ group that we would do a definite better job at that.”

Rensselaerville Supervisor John Dolce expressed his hope at the town board meeting that it would be a productive gathering, so that “hopefully, without any legalities, we can come up with what’s fair for both parties, and make everyone comfortable with the outcome.”

“I understand the legal rights [of the gun club],” Dolce told the members at another point in the meeting, “but neighborly and moral rights are what we’re trying to accomplish here … We’re not going to close the gun club, and we’re not going to ask these people to move.”

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