By Polly Lynn
The Killington Selectboard will consider whether or not to adopt a firearms discharge ordinance at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 25. The issue was first discussed at the Tuesday, April 21 Selectboard meeting when nearly a dozen residents showed up concerned about the significant increase in recreational gun use on River Road. In addition to nearby homeowners, several other residents expressed concerns over the possibility of stray bullets being so close to popular recreation areas. Many explained to the board that the gunshots were extremely disruptive, loud and scary, and that they lasted for extended periods of time, often in close proximity to residences, recreation fields and hiking trails.
The purpose of enacting a firearms discharge ordinance is “to regulate the discharge of firearms within the areas of the town specified below in order to promote the public health, safety, and welfare,” according to a public draft of the ordinance being considered.
The Restricted Firearms Discharge Areas (RFDA) specified in the draft include the traveled portions of each of the following highways, plus all lands within 200 yards on each side of the road. The proposed RFDA’s total approximately 7.5 miles of roadway. They are:
River Road, from its intersection with Route 4 to its intersection with Route 100 North. (The town offices, library, recreation center, and the Thundering Brook Falls boardwalk are located along this section and it is also a popular road for people to walk, run and bike along, Montgomery noted.) 3.7 miles.
Schoolhouse Road, from its intersection with Killington Road to its end. (The Sherburne Elementary School is located at the end of this road.) 1.2 miles.
Roaring Brook Road, from its intersection with Dean Hill Road to its intersection with High Ridge Extension Road. (The Killington Golf Course is in close proximity to this section.) 1.2 miles.
Barrows Towne Road, from its intersection with Route 100 North to its end. (Green Mountain National Golf Course is in close proximity to this section.) 0.9 miles.
West Park Road, from its intersection with Killington Road to its end, (KMS is in close proximity to this section.) 0.5 miles.
“It’s a balancing act,” said Killington Police Chief Whit Montgomery, who proposed the five areas to be restricted. “People have a right to shoot, obviously, but people also have a right to be safe and enjoy the environment and recreation.”
“We are not restricting gun ownership or right to defend yourself or hunt,” Montgomery added. “We’re trying to find a happy medium for both sides of the argument. Some other towns have restricted the whole town or whole city, but didn’t think that was necessary or appropriate in our case.”
While the discharge of firearms ordinance does not apply outside the areas specified, “the Selectboard reserves the right to post any municipal land against hunting, shooting, and trapping in accordance with 10 V.S.A. §5201,” according to the draft.
A few exceptions that permit gunfire within the RFDAs are also outlined in the ordinance and include the destruction of animals if they cause “immediate danger to any person or the property of any person, or when the animal is so seriously injured or diseased that its destruction is necessary.” It also does not apply to “police officers, sheriffs, constables, game wardens and other statutorily designated law enforcement officers in the performance of their legal duties.”
Hunters receive a bit of an exception if they are “in the active pursuit of game,” but a gun still cannot be discharged within 200 yards ofany building within the RFDA or within 100 yards from the traveled portion of any RFDA road. Discharging a gun for self-defense also warrants an exception.
Such exceptions are made “provided that no Firearm shall be so Discharged unless all reasonable precaution has been taken for protection of the public safety.”
Penalties for violating the Killington firearms discharge ordinance, if adopted, will range from $100 for a first offense to $800 for fourth and subsequent offenses.
According to state statute, unless a petition is filed in accordance with section 1973 of this title, the ordinance shall become effective 60 days after the date of its adoption. The town is responsible for communicating the changes publicly in multiple state specified ways. The provisions of the ordinance will then be enforceable, even if the RFDA areas not explicitly posted as such.
The complete draft of the ordinance the Selectboard will consider Tuesday, Aug. 25 is posted at www.killingtontown.com under “Boards and Commissions/Selectboard/Meeting Handouts/8-25-15.”