CATSKILL — Residents from both Catskill and Cairo continued to voice their concerns Wednesday about a local gun range after last month’s zoning board hearing was left open.
Sheepdog Warrior Shooting Range, on Haines Road in Catskill, is before the zoning board awaiting an interpretation of the town code.
Catskill Town Code Enforcement Officer Elliot Fishman ruled the site violated the code by allowing nonconforming uses and sent a cease-and-desist letter in November.
The range is considered a special use under town law and its special-use permit allows recreational shooting, but the Greene County Sheriff’s Office used the facility to train for about 20 days in October.
Police snipers from Connecticut have honed their skills there and the Saugerties Police Department used it for about a week, Sheepdog owner Edward Rivenburg said in November, when range representatives appeared before the zoning board for an interpretation of the zoning code.
Meanwhile, the site is also under review by the planning board to extend its 450-yard range to 1,000 yards to make it a sniper-training facility.
“We strongly believe law enforcement use was approved in the special permit granted by the planning board,” Sheepdog attorney Scott Olson said. “In the meeting minutes, the applicant stated that one of the uses will involve state and local police using the facility.”
The planning board approved the facility in April 2017.
“I consider this to be a simple use: it is the discharge of firearms,” Olson said. “Whether it is police doing it or a non-officer makes no difference.”
The public needed to appeal the planning board’s decision within 30 days, Olson said.
“This interpretation is inappropriate and untimely,” he said. “To try to go back in time is inappropriate. The time has come and gone. That ship has sailed.”
Rivenburg described his intentions regarding police use of the range, according to planning board meeting minutes from Oct. 11, 2016.
“The Sheriff’s Department does not have a range, and he had built the Hudson police range,” according to the minutes. “He would allow the Catskill Police Department to use the site at no cost and he will be building a nice state-of-the-art outdoor range ... The NYS Police have an SRT unit, but no place to train and they have interest in training at the proposed site, as well as the members of Homeland Securities Aviation.”
Resident Kerry DeMunn protested the range, saying there are other options for law enforcement.
“There are hundreds of them,” she said. “There is one in Watervliet with a 1,000-yard range, which is not permitted here. There are plenty of places to go. It is not unusual to have to travel for work. Where did they train before this range? Indoor ranges are very popular. To say that there are no other places to go is not a valid argument.”
DeMunn also disagreed with the county supporting outside law enforcement agencies.
“Connecticut is responsible for training their own police,” she said.
Todd Hoffstatter strongly objected to the range.
“I would rather live next to a nuclear power plant,” he said. “I’m all for the Second Amendment, but it doesn’t include destroying people’s lives and that’s what this is doing.”
The town of Cairo did not receive proper notification from the planning board, Councilman Dan Joyce said.
The gun range is on the Catskill/Cairo town line and Cairo residents addressed the zoning board with noise complaints at the previous hearing.
“There was no notification to the town of Cairo,” Joyce said. “No one on the board in 2017 received notification. Mr. Izzo said it was emailed. Our town clerk checked back to the end of 2016 and there was no email. If we were notified, maybe Cairo residents would have shown up [at the planning board’s hearing].”
No state environmental quality review was ever performed, Joyce said.
“No SEQR was done,” he said. “You can’t waive a SEQR. And if the email was sent, where is the proof?”
Meeting minutes from Feb. 14, 2017 indicate the planning board sent an email to Cairo.
“This application was sent to the Town of Cairo since the parcel is on the borderline of the Town of Catskill and the Town of Cairo, but the Town of Cairo has not responded,” according to the minutes.
Sue Hilgendorff, whose family owns the Winter Clove Inn, a resort adjacent to the range, spoke about the effect the range has had on her family’s business.
“Families are not coming to listen to gunfire,” she said. “People come to relax and enjoy the serene countryside.”
Businesses such as the Winter Clove Inn should be taken into consideration, Hilgendorff said.
“Real estate values are going into the toilet,” she said.
Hilgendorff also disagreed with Olson’s comment about residents having 30 days to appeal the planning board’s decision.
“Nobody complained because nobody knew,” she said.
Lenore Whitcomb, who identified herself as the owner of the Winter Clove Inn, said she had not been informed of the planning board hearing.
Fishman redirected the meeting back to the interpretation of the code. “We are here to interpret the zoning law,” he said. “The planning board would be a better venue for concerns regarding noise or lack of notification.”
Sheila Henderson, Rivenburg’s girlfriend, said abutters, or adjacent property owners, were notified.
“We have done everything we could to express our intended use,” she said. “Please don’t punish us for our town not having a category [that encompasses their use].”
Olson defended law enforcement’s use of the range and said the range owner has been open through the entire process.
“The police have a right to be there,” Olson said. “Ed was up front about his intended use.”
Eugene Mall spoke in favor of the range.
“We don’t have a lot in this county,” he said. “To me it’s a plus. I’m sympathetic to people about the noise. But why send our police to other counties when we have a facility we can use? Some people don’t like guns, and I get that. Some people don’t like the noise, and I get that. But these officers are going to be visiting restaurants and gas stations.”
Richard Jezykowski echoed similar remarks.
“It is an opportunity to bring business into the county and attract visitors to our hotels and motels.” he said. “It’s a plus for Greene County. Some resorts cater to hunters.”
Hilgendorff responded to Jezykowski.
“Winter Clove has hunters during hunting season, but not weekend after weekend,” she said. “And we don’t have families during that time.”
Whitcomb disagreed that the range helps businesses.
“No one stayed at Winter Clove or Crystal Brook from the range, but we have had people leave,” Whitcomb said.
The zoning board closed the hearing, and now have 62 days to rule on Sheepdog’s variance to allow law-enforcement training at the range.