The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly unanimously approved the sale of 77 acres of borough wetlands to the Snowshoe Gun Club at less than half of its assessed market value at its Tuesday meeting.
The ordinance states the land was assessed at $34,000 and was negotiated down to $15,000. While it states the additional acreage would be used for a 1,000-yard shooting range and for improved downrange safety, residents neighboring the range raised concerns about safety, loud explosions and the sale at less than market value.
Steven Phelps, who lives on the Spencer Homestead adjoining the range, said while he “loves guns,” used to enjoy shooting and watches his son shoot at the range, he has been awoken by fully automatic gunfire at 6 a.m. and exploding targets have rattled the windows of his house and the artwork on the walls.
“I feel the expansion of the gun range with a 1,000-yard target will attract larger caliber rifles, which will make more noise,” Phelps said.
When asked by assembly member Brent Johnson if he would be in favor of a noise restriction to address the issue, Phelps said he would be.
President of the Snowshoe Gun Club Board of Directors, Bob Seymour, said the club abides by the City of Kenai ordinances for operational hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but recommends users stop shooting by 9 p.m. on school nights.
He said the club has about 1,000 members and doesn’t expect additional acreage that would allow for long-range shooting to lead to a jump in the club’s membership.
While some members use exploding targets, Seymour said, the club emphasizes that they be used as recommended. The board has also discussed banning it, he said.
If the club doesn’t take measures to reduce noise pollution, Johnson said, the borough will likely look into restrictions.
Christine Hutchison, who lives a little more than one-half of a mile from the range, said she feels like the club has exceeded its usefulness at that current location and needs to move out.
“Extending the area does not do that,” Hutchison said. “I kind of feel like it’s one of those situations that’s not going to happen until we have an accident.”
And she said as a taxpayer, she doesn’t want to give the land away.
“If they have to have the property … I think they should pay for it,” she said.
Club board member Don Feltman said that there is nowhere else for the club to go and that extending the size of the rifle range will increase the safety. The land is only to expand the range of the rifle range. The entire range, which sits on 185 acres, is the only facility on the Kenai Peninsula where law enforcement personnel can qualify. The club also plays host to various gun use and shooting training courses, he said.
Assembly member Mako Haggerty said he thinks the range provides a “great service to the community” but he doesn’t want to borough to have to establish noise regulations for the club.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.