Trustees Thursday added creating a definition that will limit the possible uses of shooting ranges to their future Official Community Plan (OCP) review work list.
However, at their Local Trust Committee (LTC) meeting at the WI Hall, they also stressed that because the land use of the Gabriola Rod, Gun and Conservation Club (GRGCC) is grandfathered, the definition won’t impact the operations of the current gun club.
Trustee Gisele Rudischer responded to a number of letters from neighbours of the GRGCC, that said that the club is now “devoted exclusively to shooting sports”. The letters asked for a ‘zoning review’ of the club. Neighbours also thought that with the infill of lots in the area, the current zoning of the club does not fit with the residential nature of the area in which it is located.
Rudischer noted that because the GRGCC would be “grandfathered”, unless the club ceased operations for six months or more, it would not be impacted by a new land-use definition. However, she said that while the shooting range is permitted in the OCP, the intention in 1996, when the plan was written, was to allow shooting at the level of use that was occurring at the time, not “to just allow shooting ranges on Gabriola”. The noise level at the shooting range in 1996 was “nowhere near” what it is now, she said.
She thought that the LTC needed “to say something about the fact that this is pretty bad noise pollution”, and noted that environmental and social policies in the current OCP support creating the definition.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson was concerned creating a land-use definition for the club might be confusing to residents. She said it wouldn’t change the need for the club, neighbouring landowners, Province, and Regional District of Nanaimo to find “a mutually agreeable solution” to the noise issue currently under consideration. As previously reported, legal proceedings about the club’s operations are underway between these entities.
Rudischer said she was not suggesting they change the zoning, but that they make a statement that “this is no longer, at a certain level, an acceptable residential use on Gabriola”. She said she would like to see the issue added to the list of revisions they want to make to the Land Use Bylaw.
Malcolmson said that this meant the work may not happen for some time. She also noted that if everyone comes to a mutually agreeable conclusion in the dispute currently underway, that conclusion could be enshrined in the definition.
Invited to speak, GRGCC Vice-president Paul Metcalfe, who was at the meeting, said contrary to the neighbours’ comments, the mandate of the gun club is unchanged, and that shooting at the club has dropped back to its 1996 levels. He added that the Province, which owns the land, has not asked for a rezoning.
Noting that the letters to which the LTC was responding were from plaintiffs in the legal action mentioned above Metcalfe asked whether it was “appropriate to discuss rezoning while the matter is before the Supreme Court of BC, or should the test of that be any court decision or negotiated solution”. He also asked whether the gun club has been found in contravention of any noise bylaws.
Two people who live on Hess Road, Metcalfe added, say they don’t hear the club anymore. “When you talk neighbours”, he asked, “are you talking these seven households that are conveniently situated near newly-created clearcuts, or are you talking about the neighbourhood of some 100 households that they purport to represent?”
The gun club has been served with an injunction against shooting, Metcalfe also noted, that could last long enough to remove their grandfathered status. Rudischer said she expected that “whatever court case is going on is going to be over well before we ever get around to looking at the Land Use Bylaw”.
Malcolmson said because there has been no definition around what is allowed at the gun club, “there hasn’t been any solidity either for the gun club operators or for anybody on the island”.
Metcalfe said the gun club “responded immediately with the cessation of sporting clays which was two-thirds of the purportedly irritating activity. It is plain from the petition that there will never be what are called ‘centre-fire’ – the full firearms – tournaments that involve the whole province, and massive weekends of shooting”.
Rudischer said she didn’t anticipate that a definition “would be any more restrictive than what was happening before. It’s just to have something in there that puts (in) some limits. If you have already taken on those limits, well great, it won’t have any effect at all”.
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