Outdoor shooting range discussed by council

Cary Ashby • Updated Mar 16, 2017 at 1:26 PM

UPDATE: Although an environmental impact study was talked about at the meeting, Norwalk Safety-Service Director Dan Wendt said the city does not plan to do a study.

Gunners Haven, the possible outdoor shooting range, again was the topic of conversation among Norwalk city council members Tuesday.

Councilman Dave Wallace said he recently received a phone call from a resident who asked him if he had done any research on the environmental impact of shooting guns on the watershed. He represents Ward 2, where Gunners Haven would be located if council passes the related ordinances and permitting conditional usage. The issues remain tabled.

Norwalk Safety-Service Director Dan Wendt said the city plans to do an environmental impact study.

When the Norwalk Police Department was building its shooting range at the rear of Veterans Memorial Lake Park in 1998 and 1999, a Bowling Green-based EPA representative studied the situation. Chief Dave Light told council Tuesday that the official deemed the possible lead contamination from the water run-off was at an acceptable level.

The possible noise from Gunners Haven has been the topic of multiple discussions at recent council meetings. A handgun generates about 110 decibels when someone is standing right next to it. The noise ordinances throughout Norwalk is set at 70 decibels.

Gunners Range will include baffles — similar to awnings on an outdoor garage where a person would park a vehicle — which will deflect bullets and dampen the gunfire noise. Owner Jeremy Norris and city officials have said the shooting range will be built to the specifications established in the NRA Range Source Book. Norris didn’t attend Tuesday’s safety committee meeting.

“We are also looking at other methods of muffling the sound with dampeners hanging on the concrete walls and ceilings — similar to what they have in sound-proof rooms,” Norris said earlier.

Recently, Light, Norris, Wallace and Wendt went to the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) in London, Ohio to see its shooting range and check the noise levels. They took two measurements — 210 feet, which would be the edge of the Gunners Haven property line, and a quarter-mile, which is where the nearest Norwalk neighborhood would be.

Wendt said the noise at the longest measurement “was pretty negligible — almost like a whisper.” He added there is a nearby cemetery and OPOTA doesn’t allow anyone to do any shooting when there are funerals.

Council members asked for Wallace’s feedback since Gunners Haven would be in the manufacturing district in the ward he represents.

At 210 feet, Wallace said he “could definitely hear” the gun shots from the OPOTA facility and the noise was minimal at  4/10 of a mile.

Since he hasn’t seen any building plans for Gunners Haven, the council member said it’s unknown if that facility would be identical to the OPOTA one.

“We don’t know what we’re getting (aside) from the NRA regulations,” Wallace added.

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said he understands that Norris will bring his plans to the March 28 public hearing.

Norris shared additional ideas this week for dampening the sound at Gunners Haven.

“The rubber walls are going to reduce the sound to next to nothing. We went 715 yards away from the facility and couldn't hear anything at the police range,” he said.

Councilwoman Samantha Wilhelm, who chairs the safety committee, requested members of the audience share their feedback if they had any Tuesday. There were about 30 residents who attended, but nobody spoke.

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