ORRINGTON – Residents at Monday’s annual town meeting shot down a proposed ordinance to regulate the town’s gun club and any future shooting ranges.
But it wasn’t without a fight from the residents who crafted the three-page ordinance.
R.J. Bellinger, a 20-year resident and founding member of the Orrington Rod and Gun Club, which operates the town’s only shooting range, said the ordinance would have impinged “more and more on our rights.”
“This is about your individual rights,” he said.
After telling the nearly 190 residents and 25-30 nonresident gun enthusiasts in attendance his firearm credentials, Bellinger went on to say that he has “been on the best ranges” around the country, including one built by gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson.
“I used to know every designer in the business,” he said. “You [can] have some satisfaction that somebody with a little bit of knowledge is here to tell you: The safest range that I’ve been at is right here in Orrington.”
The ordinance was proposed by Perkins Point Road and Rocky Shore Drive residents to establish rules and policies for existing and future shooting ranges.
James Goody, the Orrington Rod and Gun Club’s president and a town selectman, said the proposed ordinance mirrors many of the club’s policies already in place.
The club’s original permit to operate was issued 21 years ago, and there are no municipal rules regarding maintaining safety or site inspections. However, over the years, the club has added components or changed items in response to residents’ requests and concerns, some recently and others planned, Goody and other gun club members said.
As the town’s population has grown over the last two decades, resident homes, including that of Jerry and Joyce Perkins who live on Perkins Point Road, have encroached on the range, which is located on East Bucksport Road.
“What I’m worried about is bringing my own granddaughter down there,” Joyce Perkins told the crowd. “We’re interested in the public and their safety.”
After a lengthy discussion, sometimes heated and requiring a gavel to dispense, the ordinance was defeated by hand vote.
Many in the crowd cheered and applauded.
Afterward, a member of the town’s Board of Appeals announced that she was resigning from the board, stating she didn’t want to live in town anymore.
The 21 budget questions, which were voted on at the beginning of the meeting, flew by with unanimous approval for the most part.
The question of whether the town should build a new town hall caused controversy as residents expressed desires to refurbish the historic municipal building, while others wanted to use the administrative building at the former HoltraChem site, which is in the process of a hazardous waste cleanup.
Town officials told residents the current building has not been up to code for years and is unsafe for employees because of asbestos in the boiler room and access issues.
The warrant articles about constructing a new building and transferring reserve funds for the project were both defeated.