Northborough Residents Vote for Freedom!
5/2/14 Follow up: Northborough Votes NO on Article 58.
On Wednesday night April 30, 2014 voters of the town of Northborough sent a very clear message to town officials by voting no or Article 58.
The vast majority of voters who had sat through three nights of Annual Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly against over riding a recent MA Superior Court decision, which deemed the range use not only legal, but also perfectly safe for the surrounding neighbors.
The genesis of this Article and this story goes back twenty years, to 1994 when David Brown and his wife Carmel carefully selected and purchased a tract of land to build their house with accompanying target range in the backyard.
A letter to GOAL from David, who is a life member, told the story.
“Carmel and I have lived in Northborough for many years. We are avid target shooters. We moved to Northborough in 1994 because we could buy enough land there to construct a small target range for our own use. We have complied with all the laws. For over 15 years we used our range without incident. We have tried to be good neighbors.”
What he’s not saying here is that he met numerous times with town officials and was told that the land abutting his purchased property was not developable. Fast-forward a few years and that changed, we’ll pick up with David again.
“About 2006, land next to ours was subdivided for house lots. Even though our range was clearly posted, people built homes within 500 feet of our firing line. Some of those people then complained to the town because they wanted to stop us from using our own range.
The town responded with a cease and desist order to us.”
Despite promises from the town of Northborough, the land was developed and David found himself no longer able to use his shooting range on his private property. It should be noted that David and Carmel were very thorough in building an exceptionally safe range.
“We have made improvements to our range to make sure it was safe. We even had it inspected by two range experts who found that it was safe. “
The town would have none of it though.
“The town claimed state law required us to have the permission of all the neighbors within 500 feet of our firing line before we could use our range. We said that indoor and outdoor firing ranges were exempt from that requirement.”
The town of Northborough would not lift the cease and desist order so David and Carmel took the town of Northborough to court and won at Superior Court.
After the loss in Superior Court the town of Northborough, not wanting to go to the expense of appealing at the State Supreme Court sought a back door means of shutting the range down, via an article at town meeting banning the discharge of firearms within the town of Northborough and within 500 feet of any dwelling.
The article was tricky in that it was written to exclude the language in MA c269 s12e (c. d. and e.), which grants an exemption for shooting ranges.
Approximately one month before town meeting David and his lawyer Karen MacNutt contacted GOAL asking us to broadcast information to our membership about the pending article and town meeting.
“Article 58 is proposed to circumvent the court ruling and state law by creating a by-law that would allow any neighbor (even a new one) within 500 feet of our firing line to prevent us from using our own property for a use that has been found to be both lawful and safe.
Article 58 is not about safety. It is unfair and based on prejudice. It sets a very bad precedent. If you are a Northborough voter, call the town to see when Article 58 is likely to come to a vote. Please attend the meeting and vote No on Article 58.
GOAL immediately began communicating with David and Karen, broadcasting the information to our membership, urging Northborough’s registered voters to attend town meeting.
As previously mentioned, Northborough voters showed up and sat through the first two of three nights, waiting for their time to debate and vote on Article 58.
Finally Article 58 came up for discussion. Chief Leahy made a lengthy presentation about the range and why he felt is should be shut down. Following the presentation many residents stood to speak against the article. The overwhelming opinion, reflected by the vote was that the new landowners were wrong to try to force Mr. Brown to cease using the range on his property.
“The owners of the abutting properties knew that there was an active target range on Mr. Brown’s property, now they have a right to say that he needs to shut it down, after nearly 20 years? How is that fair? Why have we not discussed the option of them building a berm on their property to protect their house?”
Our democracy was setup to work exactly as it did on Wednesday night, to protect the rights of an individual from overreaching efforts to restrict freedom by government.
GOAL is very proud of the residents of Northborough who saw this for what it was, thank you again to all involved.
5/1/14 Update: Victory! Article 58 was resoundingly defeated at town meeting last night. Congratulations and thank you to the good citizens of Northborough who took a stand and voted for freedom. We are very pleased with the result.
4/30/14 Update: Article 58 will be voted on tonight! Please be sure to encourage your friends and family to attend and vote no on this anti civil rights - anti freedom article. See below for more information.
4/24/14 Update: Northborough Annual Town Meeting begins Monday 4/28/14. Please plan on attending all 3 nights and arriving early!
We have confirmed that the town of Northborough can bring Article 58 up for vote at anytime during the meeting. We have also confirmed that the article can be called for "reconsideration" for a second and all new vote - after it has already been voted on once! Please note, an article can only be "reconsidered" for vote once. After the second vote it is considered settled.
GOAL will have "Vote NO on Article 58" signs available for distribution at the GOAL office on Friday afternoon, stop by and pick one up!
See below for more information on this article/town meeting.
Attention - Northborough Registered Voters! & Friends and Family, we need your support to protect our right to bear arms!
David Brown who is the land owner at the center of this controversy is a GOAL Life Member. Please read his letter about this situation.
Article 58 would change current state law for firing ranges on private property, making a minimum distance of 500 feet from any dwelling law, and effectively shutting down an existing range on private property within town limits. (see background info below)
Northborough residents who are registered voters need to attend the Annual Town Meeting which runs for 3 nights beginning on April 28th, please vote against Article 58.
Background information: A landowner in the town of Northborough who has a legal shooting range on his private property was taken to court by neighbors who wished to shut him down. The case (Brown v. Leahy) went all the way to MA Superior Court where the land owner won.
Now these neighbors who lost in court seek a back door means of shutting the range down, via an article at town meeting banning the discharge of firearms within the town of Northborough and within 500 feet of any dwelling.
The article is tricky in that it is written to exclude the language in MA c269 s12e (c. d. and e.) which grants an exemption for shooting ranges.
Should they be able to pass this into law and shut the range down it would create a very slippery slope for ranges. It would also create opportunity for anti gun towns/selectmen who wish to emulate the actions being taken in Northborough.
Once again, if you are a resident of Northborough, please attend your Annual Town Meeting and vote against Article 58 the meeting is scheduled for April 28-30.
Update: Please see the response below from the town of Northborough in regards to this article.
Thank you for your email. The Town Meeting Warrant was closed by the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on March 10th.
It would be appropriate for any town resident who is either in favor or opposed to any particular warrant article to attend the Annual Town Meeting to hear the presentation.
That is when you will have the opportunity to state your opinion.
All registered voters of Northborough are able to attend and present either their opposition or support for each and any warrant article. All warrant articles are voted on by the townspeople.
The proposed bylaw (Article 58) reads as follows: FIREARM DISCHARGE BYLAW Within the Town of Northborough, no person shall, except in the performance of a legal duty or in the lawful defense of a person or property, discharge any firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling or other occupied structure, unless granted written permission by the owner of the land on which the dwelling or structure is located.
At the March 10th Selectmen’s Meeting, the Police Chief indicated that Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 269, Section 12E, currently establishes a minimum distance of five hundred feet from a dwelling or other building in use for the lawful discharge of a firearm. The proposed bylaw would extend that distance to firing ranges, an area in which there is currently no minimum stated safe distance.
The Annual Town Meeting is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 28th at 7:30pm at the Algonquin High School.
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