Reply filed in gun-range lawsuit

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PARIS — Property owners near a shooting range in Waterford have no grounds to sue the club that maintains the range, a lawyer has asserted in an answer to a lawsuit.

John and Debbie Howe filed the suit against the Waterford Fish and Game Association, which has a shooting range on Route 118. The couple says the gunfire levels at the range were insufficient to disturb them when they moved to the area in 1976, but became a nuisance after 2007.

The Howes lodged several complaints with the town’s Board of Selectmen and formed a group titled the Waterford Noise Abatement Coalition before filing the suit. They claim that the range has seen increased use after an expansion, that it is being used in the early morning and late evening hours, and that the increased usage of shotguns and automatic weapons is audible from their farmhouse and property on McIntire Road.

The Howes’ lawsuit, filed by attorneys Peter Drum and Patrick Parson, charges nuisance, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium. The latter two complaints say that Debbie has suffered from “severe physical and emotional ailments” and that John has suffered the “loss of marital comfort, companionship, and affection” as a result. It asks the court to order a halt to the use of shotguns and automatic weapons at the range, bring firing levels to a level comparable to those from April 2006 to April 2007, and have the club pay any compensatory damages it deems proper.

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Paul Brook, vice president of the club, previously said that the range has undergone renovations, but not expanded. Attorney Teresa M. Cloutier, in her reply to the Howes’ suit, also denies any expansion and “denies that activities on its property are audible at [the Howes’] home at all times and/or under all conditions.” She also denies the charges that the activity at the range has resulted in any of the specific charges, as well as accusations that it has lowered the property value of the Howes’ home and prevented them from the quiet use of their property.

Cloutier lists nine affirmative defenses in the reply. These include claims that the Howes are barred from filing a complaint due to a statute of limitations. According to a state statute cited in the reply, a person may not file a nuisance complaint against a shooting range if the range existed when they acquired their property. A nuisance complaint can be filed if there is a “substantial change” in the use of the range, but it must be brought before a court no later than three years after the start of the change.

mlangeveld@sunjournal.com

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