Apr 21, 2017 4:55 PM
WARNER - Two local businessmen are at odds over a proposed indoor gun range in Warner. While one says the community would benefit from its offerings, another says it's far too close to home.
“I wanted to do something that was local, and I wanted to do something that was fun," said Eric Miller, who's proposing a 9,400 square foot indoor gun range.
He said once he decided to embark on this new business venture, Dragonfly Ranges, it took quite some time to find a suitable piece of land for it.
“When I went out looking for a piece of property, what I looked for was a piece of property that has the least number of abutters," he explained. “Firearms can be divisive, and I certainly didn’t want to be adjacent to, let’s say, a residential area.”
He settled on current forest land along Warner Road just off Exit 7 on I-89. The facility will have 16 shooting lanes, six which are designated for more competitive shooters, as well as a retail store and an education center.
But his one major abutter is less than thrilled by the idea.
“One of the big problems we have is attracting talent to this area, and to bring people in knowing there’s a gun range within feet of the front door, it’s just crazy,” said Norm Carlson, the founder, owner and president of MadgeTech Inc.
Carlson, a Warner native, started the company in 1996. It's 60 employees design, manufacture, assemble and sell data loggers for companies around the world. The data loggers can record measurements like temperature, humidity, pressure and voltage over time.
The two properties are just a handful of yards apart, and Carlson isn't keen on having a gun range so close to his business.
“I’m not against guns. I’m not against a gun range, but to put it right here, right next door to a company that serves this area in so many ways and provides employment for so many people from this area, just seemed ludicrous to me," he said.
Carlson explained many reasons he opposes the range, including noise, the range attracting novice shooters, how the land will be clear-cut for it and the impression it will leave on clients and prospective employees, among other concerns.
Miller affirms he's worked to be a "good neighbor" to MadgeTech and its employees.
"The design of this range from the beginning to the end was designed in order to be an asset to the community," he explained. “If I have to have an abutter, my abutter should be a factory.”
Miller also said because of the material the building will be made of, "no more than a whisper" should be heard from the outside.
He also contested the claim that attracting novice shooters to the range — one of Dragonfly Ranges' target audiences — isn't a bad thing.
“There’s a lot of people out there who are in desperate need of a combination of education and training to become proficient if they’re going to choose to constitutionally carry the firearm," he said. “I would ask the community to give me the opportunity to create the platform to offer that education to that population.”
For Carlson and his employees though, the pieces still aren't adding up to a positive addition to the area.
“It doesn’t sit well with myself or a number of other employees," he said. "It’s just a comfort level that just isn’t there."
Carlson has been planning a $3 million, 8,000 square foot renovation to the existing MadgeTech building, as business is growing quickly. That project is now on hold pending a ruling on Dragonfly Ranges.
“They’re not stopping us from doing the expansion," he said. "I’ve stopped it because I don’t want to have a company right next to a gun range. I just can’t do it. Sorry, but I can’t.”
The Warner Planning Board has accepted jurisdiction over Miller's application to build a gun range. However, it's scheduled a second public hearing on the issue to include input from nearby Hopkinton as well as the Regional Planning Commission.
That meeting is scheduled for May 1. The board has until late June to make a decision on the range.
Warner Planning Board Chairman Ben Frost said it's unclear how long that final ruling will take, but he's grateful for the community's input on the matter so far.
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