Parkland County has decided to allow a controversial gun club to resume operations, despite an appeal launched by nearby residents.
The Spruce Grove Gun Club closed its doors on June 9, 2014 after its development permit expired. When club officials tried to renew the application, six nearby residents appealed, citing noise and safety concerns.
In a message released on the county’s website on Thursday, the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board says it has finished considering the complaints and evidence brought forward by neighbours living near the club, and will uphold its earlier decision to renew the club’s development permit.
In a public meeting last month, some residents fought the permit renewal, saying they feared for their safety after one house was hit by a bullet and two other bullets were found. While it has not been proven that the bullets came from the range, it spurred an increase in calls to have the place shut down.
Neighbours became more concerned when Parkland County announced it did not perform a risk assessment before approving a housing development downrange of the gun club, which has been in the location for 40 years.
Over the course of a seven-hour meeting last week, neighbours and club officials each had their chance to have their say.
Ultimately, the decision was made based on land use, says the SDAB. Because the gun club complied with the Outdoor Participant Recreation Services and the County’s Municipal Development Plan Recreation and Open Space Policy, it will be permitted to stay.
The conditions of the permit will be amended, however.
'It needs to come down to being better neighbours all around'
Given the noise concerns raised by nearby residents, the club will have to modify its hours of operation – particularly on weekends and holidays. The club’s members will also need to provide monthly noise monitoring results to the county.
With regard to worries over safety, the county will require regular safety reviews by the province.
“The Board was clear in its decision that it does not have the expertise to impose specific safety measures regarding the design and operation of the gun range, noting that authority rests with the Chief Firearms Officer of Alberta,” the message reads.
The board will also require a report from the Chief Firearms Officer that confirms the gun club is in compliance with provincial safety standards and will not put neighbours living down range into danger.
While club spokesman Bill Newton says he empathizes with the neighbours, the board’s decision did not surprise him.
Newton said the club will start work right away to meet the new conditions, but will prioritize working with the club’s worried neighbours face-to-face to find a resolution that will suit everyone.
“It needs to come down to being better neighbours all around,” he said.
“At the end of the day, what we learned was that we’ve got some work to do with our neighbours and we’ve got some work to do with the county with the conditions they’ve set on us and we’re prepared to do all of that work.”
The amended permit will take effect as soon as all the set conditions have been met. It will expire in November 2015.
Anyone who opposes the ruling will now have 30 days to file an appeal.