Tense debate over Westminster Rod & Gun Club future (VIDEO)













STRONG FEELINGS ON BOTH SIDES: Holding two American flags, resident Nate Johnson listens during a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Thursday night to determine the fate of the Westminster Rod & Gun Club. The club, more than a century old, faces a cease-and-desist order from Building Commissioner Paul Blanchard following complaints from neighbors of increased firearms use. See video and slide show at sentinelandenterprise.com. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

WESTMINSTER — Whether the Rod & Gun Club must comply with a cease-and-desist letter sent by the town’s building commissioner remains an open question following a periodically contentious Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Thursday night.

The hearing at Westminster Elementary School was supposed to end in a vote by the board on whether to grant the Rod & Gun Club its appeal. But testimony from residents on both sides of the issue stretched into the evening, and the board opted to reconvene May 2.

At issue is whether the club substantially expanded its scope of operations since 1974, when the town adopted zoning laws that effectively barred the creation of new gun clubs and shooting ranges.













Resident Don Shank speaks in opposition to the Westminster Rod & Gun Club’s continued operation during a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Thursday night.
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

The 124-year-old Rod & Gun Club was “grandfathered” in, said Building Commissioner Paul Blanchard, meaning it was permitted to remain open as a pre-existing, nonconforming land use so long as activity at the club didn’t increase beyond pre-1974 levels.

In testimony, Blanchard said the Rod & Gun Club violated its permit when it removed a substantial amount of land from its premises.

“One of the previous inspectors had written them a letter with regards to earth removal and the possibility that that would be an extension,” he said. “They either extended the shooting range that was there or created a new shooting range, you can’t really tell.”

The hearing started with testimony from the Rod & Gun Club’s attorney, Justin H.

Raphaelson, who argued the club is a pillar of the community that has not expanded more than state…

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