A civic gathering

Voters gather in the Peterborough Town House for the  deliberative session in April.

PETERBOROUGH — Town officials have scheduled a rehearing for a zoning amendment that voters approved in May, which included a provision limiting shooting ranges to enclosed indoor facilities.

The Monadnock Rod and Gun Club had requested the rehearing. The club says the town did not explain that the amendment would affect shooting ranges and thus violated a state law requiring adequate notice.

The rehearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Peterborough Town House on Grove Street, according to a notice on the town’s website.

Zoning Amendment 1 was among 15 proposed zoning amendments before Peterborough voters in May. The amendment’s full text did not appear on the ballot, but a summary said it would add three definitions and modify several existing definitions, including that of a “recreational facility.”

The language on the ballot did not say how the definitions would change, and said the amendment was intended to add clarity and specificity to the town’s zoning ordinance.

Part of the amendment altered the definition of a recreational facility by adding, “Shooting ranges shall be required to be entirely enclosed indoor facilities.” This change was not specifically mentioned on the ballot.

The full text of the zoning amendment was available on the town’s website.

“Our contention is that the vote was improper because no one could tell from the ballot that it had anything to do with a shooting range,” said Thomas R. Hanna, a Keene attorney and partner in BCM Environmental and Land Law, which represents the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club.

Hanna said the club and voters had a right to be informed of the change. The newly added sentence is the only time the term “shooting range” appears in Peterborough’s 141-page zoning ordinance.

“There was a reference on the ballot that the article involved clarification,” Hanna said. “Well, it wasn’t clarification. … It was a change of the law as it related to shooting ranges.”

The amendment also specified that a bed and breakfast has three or more available bedrooms and added definitions for “clinic” and “structure,” among other changes.

The gun club’s motion for rehearing says that, like the ballot, the notice given for a February hearing on the proposed zoning amendments did not say anything about the shooting-range addition.

A property use that pre-exists a zoning restriction is typically allowed to continue as a “nonconforming use.” As the gun club had an outdoor shooting range since before Peterborough passed a zoning ordinance, the town already considered it a nonconforming use, according to a September 2018 court filing in another matter. The motion for rehearing does not specify how the zoning change would affect the gun club in practice.

Pete Throop, director of the town’s office of community development, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.

According to state law, a motion for a rehearing of a zoning decision made by voters at town meeting goes to the selectmen, who must hold a hearing within 30 days. If the selectmen decide the request “warrants action,” they are to call a special town meeting.

The club’s motion for rehearing, dated June 13, asks the Peterborough Select Board to call such a meeting.

The Monadnock Rod and Gun Club hosts activities related to firearms, archery, fishing and hunting at its grounds on Route 202, along the Peterborough-Jaffrey line, according to its website.

The club was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1949, according to the N.H. Secretary of State’s online business database.

Separate from the zoning change, the town and the gun club have been involved in an ongoing legal dispute related to the club’s outdoor shooting range.

In a lawsuit filed last fall, Peterborough officials allege the club expanded its outdoor shooting range, filled in wetlands and built a shooting pavilion, all without the requisite town approvals. The extended shooting range now crosses the property of an abutter, Scott Perry, and enters a third property, owned by Robert C. Morris Inc., according to the lawsuit.

In November, the club agreed to a preliminary injunction, which bars use of the firing range while the lawsuit is pending.

The case is on hold until a separate, but related, dispute between the gun club and Perry can be resolved. A trial in that lawsuit is scheduled for next week in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester.

This is the second post-election challenge of a zoning amendment in Peterborough this year. The other one involved Zoning Amendment 15, a voter-submitted amendment that would have rolled back efforts to promote more density in certain parts of town.

In early June, a group of town residents asked the selectboard to reconsider its acceptance of two protest petitions, which made it so the amendment needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The amendment failed at the polls in May despite garnering a little over half the vote.

Last week, the selectboard declined to revisit its decision on the protest petitions.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PCunoBoothKS.