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Lansing Town ZBA

While the first two sessions of the Lansing Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing filled the town courtroom for  an appeal challenging Code Enforcement Officer Lynn Day's issuance of a building permit to the Lansing Rod & Gun Club (LRGC) to swap shooting ranges on its property was legal, few people attended the denouement Monday when deliberations were concluded and a ruling was made.  The board voted unanimously to uphold Day's decision with the one exception.  The ZBA determined the affected property to be part of a floodplain, Therefore the resolution ordered LRGC to apply for and obtain a floodplain building permit before continuing construction.

"I think this has weighed heavily on all of us," said Planning Board member peter Larson. "Our responsibility is to follow the law as its written. We can't make law.  It puts us in a tough spot in a lot of ways when things like this come up.  It's not a decision that any of us makes lightly."

Homeowners Lisa Ruzicka and Tim Farrell, and 'Citizens for a Healthy Salmon Creek Watershed' filed the appeal December 10th.  Ruzicka and Farrell's house is barely over the allowed 500 feet from one of the new proposed shooting ranges, and they have fiercely opposed LRGC's plan, which is intended to comply with with a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order of consent by swapping the locations of shooting ranges on their property so new lead shot will not go into Salmon Creek and wetlands on the property.

ZBA Chairman Hurf Sheldon started Monday's meeting with a brief overview of the review the board has conducted on the appeal.  The hearing spanned over three public meetings, and a few closed-door sessions with attorney Paul D. Sylvestri, who had been hired by the Town specially for this hearing.

"We considered carefully all the public comments, all the technical comments," Sheldon said. "We have attorneys working for the Town to help us make determinations on some of the finer points.  So we have a little more discussion, but not a lot.  We're going to go over a 'hit list' and see if we can come to some sort of ruling."

Public deliberation among board members began after a public hearing in the first session allowed both sides and anyone supporting one point of view or another to weigh in.  Most of the second (February 19th) session was spent in board deliberations, and at the end of about two hours some technical questions remained.  Those were answered in the interim, and the Board resumed reviewing each point of the appeal Monday from where they left off.

Gun Club ZBA RulingAppellants Tim Tim Farrell and Lisa Ruzicka (far left), and Lansing Rod & Gun Club attorney Andrew Leja (at right).

After methodically considering each point and either affirming or dismissing it, Sheldon read a draft resolution that board members would vote on.  It affirmed that the board had reviewed the appeal, and largely upheld Day's decision to issue a building permit and his interpretation of the law.  The ruling dismissed the appellants' complaints about his handling of storm water law on the grounds that they filed their appeal too late (there is a ten day period allowed for filing such appeals) for those complaints to be considered.  The ZBA determined that the property is in a floodplain, and directed that a floodplain building permit must be obtained.  But the resolution found Day had not violated various laws pertaining to the issuance of a building permit.

The board voted unanimously to adopt the resolution 4-0.  A fifth board member was unable to attend, and the alternate board member had recused herself from the deliberations, but the remaining four constituted a quorum.

Ruzicka and Farrell left the courtroom at this point, but Sheldon was not done.  He proposed another resolution tasking the Town Board with reviewing and considering actions the Town of Lansing can take to address lead contamination in Salmon Creek and the adjacent wetlands.  The resolution notes that LRCG's consent order with the EPA does not address a half century of lead shot, and claims that lead pellets may break down into toxic soluble lead compounds.  Before casting his vote Sheldon scolded the gun club for not taking action to clean up the lead.

"I think this is a good idea.  But one of the things that this continues to point out is that lead has been a known hazard for decades.  I feel that the Lansing gun club could have taken a little more leadership in this area."

"My grandfather fished the streams here in the 1890s," Sheldon continued.  "When he died the only thing he had kept all his life was is creel and his rod, which he used to fish here.  i have to think about the history of sporting in my family, and shooting.  I can't think how our ancestors would feel about this situation right now. I really think that as a town all of the individuals, no matter what side you find yourself on, we need to come together and try to solve this problem.  This is clearly a very dangerous material that we're putting into our environment."

The second resolution also passed unanimously.

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