Board accepts new gun rules

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By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun

The Colchester Selectboard on Tuesday endorsed changes to the landscape of where people can shoot guns in town and what kinds of guns they can use. The changes resulted from the work of a citizen’s committee tasked by the board with updating the town’s firearms ordinance.

The update addresses citizen concerns about stray bullets in residential areas while respecting property owner rights and Vermont’s hunting and shooting tradition, said Colchester police Sgt. Jeff Bean, who led the committee.

The selectboard set a public hearing for May 26 as part of the process of changing the ordinance.

A previous attempt to update the ordinance proved controversial when much of the town’s residentially zoned property was placed under shotgun-only restrictions. Residents of the Clay Point Road area argued against the restrictions, saying that the housing density and terrain in the area does not warrant restrictions. The new proposal leaves the area unrestricted.

Also unrestricted under the new proposal is the area south of Main Street. That is an area that is currently restricted to only shotguns. New shotgun-only restrictions are also proposed for the north side of Main Street, around Bay Road and along the shoreline north of Bay Road. No shooting of any kind will be permitted around Burnham Library and the public schools under the proposal.

The committee met eight times starting in September with as many as 20 citizens present, Bean said. The majority of committee members were there to protect property rights and keep firearm restrictions to a minimum. Consensus among the group came relatively easy, according to Bean; the only sticking point was what to do about the possibility of stray bullets crossing Malletts Bay into restricted areas. The committee considered restricting all shoreline land, he said. Residents of Sunset View Road concerned about over-water stray bullets prompted a review of firearms restrictions across the bay in Niquette Bay State Park.

“State officials determined that a projectile reaching Sunset View is unlikely and hunting should be allowed in the state park,” Bean said.

Sunset View Road representative Joe Candido said residents there are still hopeful of a restricted zone on the private property between their road and the park.

“That shoreline is incredibly close to our area,” he told the selectboard.

Bean noted that the new ordinance would make it illegal to shoot from an unrestricted area into a restricted area. He said future changes to the ordinance and shooting map should be made on a case-by-case basis as complaints arise. He predicted that the restricted area will grow as the town becomes more populated.