PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Department is looking for a new place for firearms training.
The city has closed the shooting range on Utility Drive, off Holmes Road, following a challenge to the zoning laws. A group of residents in the area has been trying to get the range closed, citing safety and nuisance factors, and lodged a formal complaint saying the use of that property violated the city's zoning.
That formal zoning complaint was fielded by Building Commissioner Gerald Garner and City Solicitor Richard Dohoney and there appeared to be some merit to it.
Garner said it appears that the bylaws do predate the opening of the range in 1999. But Dohoney said there are also legal questions around whether or not the police firing range counts and what other state laws regarding the firing of weapons comes into play.
The research didn't go much further though. The city's administration and Chief Michael Wynn issued an order to halt firearms training at the location.
"We are looking at alternatives," police Capt. Mark Trapani said.
Capt. Matthew Kirchner said the site will still be used for K9 training and new signage is being created to limit the land's use. He said there will be no more live fire at the location.
Council Vice President John Krol, however, asked why it took so long. He said it was clear that the noise was too much for the area and numerous complaints were made.
"When I heard the actual gunfire they were experiencing, to me, it was a no-brainer. It was totally unacceptable," Krol said. "I don't know why the police department didn't have a better recognition and maybe a little more compassion for these residents."
Vinyl Avenue resident George Nardin said the neighbors made numerous complaints to the department and to the mayor's office and were responded to in a manner he felt was disrespectful. Lathers Avenue resident David Durante said the mayor's office and Police Department were "dismissive," "unsympathetic," and "hostile" toward the neighbors opposing the range.
Kirchner responded by saying that the department wasn't ignoring the complaints and was working toward a solution. The department doesn't currently have anywhere to go and Trapani said the department was pricing out noise canceling equipment to lessen the impact on the neighborhood and options for lead removal for the environment.
"I don't think anybody was ignored. We took it very seriously and we pursued it," Kirchner said.
But the department is going to need a suitable location for the next round of training in the fall.
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said she was hoping that there could be a location in another, more rural town.
"They need a firing range, they need to practice, and the residents need some relief," she said.
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