Police Chief Oks Shooting Range Operation

            With the OK from the police chief, the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals on August 8 approved the special permit for a tactical training and shooting range sought by Steven Morrell, owner of a secluded property off County Road.

            During the July 25 meeting, the ZBA found no problem with the proposal but held out until Police Chief Robert Small was given the chance to visit the site and provide the board feedback.

            Small said on August 8 that he had never met Morrell before he visited him at the property, but found Morrell’s resume of past experience in the field to be extensive and the site appropriate for a commercial shooting range.

            The location abuts the SEMASS solid waste processing plant, and cranberry bogs owned by Brad Morse, a Rochester selectman, who spoke at the prior meeting in favor of the application. He also said he would be granting Morrell an easement for access to his property that will be filed at the Registry of Deeds.

            There are no residences abutting the property.

            Morrell served as a U.S. Marines sniper during the ‘90s, has 29 years of military law enforcement and counter terrorism experience under his belt. He has also been a firearms and tactical shooting instructor for 15 years and holds various relevant certifications.

            “It appears to be a pretty safe property to run a firearms range,” said Small. The backstop, he said, appeared to be adequate. “I think, physically, [it’s a] pretty safe physical layout to run a firearms training program. He certainly has the background for it.”

            Small compiled his observations into written form and submitted it to the board and agreed that an annual visit to the property would be sufficient.

            “[Morrell] seems to be very conscious and obviously very knowledgeable of safety being a priority,” Small said. “After going there … I don’t have any reservations about his ability to safely conduct a firearms training at that facility.”

            ZBA Chairman David Arancio said the board also received input from retired Rochester Police Chief Paul Magee endorsing Morrell’s shooting range.

            With no further concerns about the appropriateness of the site, the board turned its attention to some proposed conditions on the special permit, with much of the conversation focused on hours of operation, specifically for Sundays.

            ZBA associate member Jeffrey Costa didn’t agree with the Sunday hours proposed for the range, 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm, saying he felt Morrell should be able to start earlier in the morning, perhaps at 10:00 am. The rest of the days of the week, Monday through Saturday, can operate from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm.

            “Well, I’d kind of like to get church out of the way first,” said ZBA member Richard Cutler. He later proposed allowing Morrell to start at 11:00 am on Sundays and federal holidays for silent instruction only, with an option to petition the police chief and the board of Selectmen to start earlier on specific intermittent dates, which the board ultimately approved.

            Other conditions placed on the special permit were that the permit was non-transferable, the Board of Selectmen would have to issue a range permit, the police chief must inspect the site annually, no ammunition or firearms may be stored at the site, no signage indicating the use of the property may be displayed on any public way, and all training sessions must be attended by at least one trained facilitator with their names given ahead of time to the police chief.

            The special permit was approved, pending the filing of the access easement.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for August 22 at 7:15 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals

By Jean Perry

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