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Compromises help to pass gun law

| Sunday, Aug. 24, 2003

It will be business as usual for gun clubs in Jackson, despite new regulations that limit recreational businesses such as shooting ranges.

Controversy flared early this year when some Jackson residents asked for stricter regulations of businesses that involve shooting firearms. The concerned residents were responding to rumors that a shooting range would open nearby.

Gun enthusiasts, however, worried that tighter regulations would violate their rights.

After a series of changes, the law finally passed last week -- in a form that pleased both township supervisors and the sporting groups that initially fought it. The law will take effect on Aug. 31.

"I think everybody had their chance to say what they had to say about it," Supervisor Bob Goetz said.

The law affects only new businesses and existing businesses planning significant expansion. Shooting ranges aren't the only businesses targeted -- the law covers any business that charges customers for recreational activities.

Those businesses only will be permitted as conditional uses. Public hearings will be conducted, and the township will have to approve the plans.

Recreational businesses are allowed in several zones -- rural agricultural, residential low-density and mixed commercial or office.

The law puts a 75-decibel limit on noise at adjacent properties between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Sound studies show that 60 to 70 decibels is equal to being in a room during a conversation or listening to noise in a business office.

Noise isn't the only consideration under the law.

Lighting must be directed away from adjacent properties, and light pole height will be limited to 20 feet. Glare from the lights will be regulated by limits on foot candles, which measure illumination. One foot candle of light will be permitted at the property line.

Existing facilities will be bound by the new regulations only if they expand existing buildings by more than 50 percent.

Gun enthusiast Paul Whitehouse, of Youngblood Road, called the ordinance "much improved."

The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs objected to earlier plans for a 60-decibel limit and 17-foot limit on light poles. Sporting groups said light from 20-foot poles would be less likely to spill onto adjoining properties.

An early version of the ordinance would have required shooting ranges and similar businesses to operate in a building, with fencing around the perimeter of the property, self-latching gates and no gunfire audible from the edge of the property.

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