The City of Grand Forks council considered on Monday night whether to grant a licence of occupation for a portion of city land to the Grand Forks Wildlife Association for its gun range, but the plan has been met with some opposition and concerns about the level of noise caused by the range.
Representatives from the Grand Forks Wildlife Association gave a presentation at the April 9 Committee of the Whole, noting that while the majority of the range is on Crown land (for which they have a recently-renewed 30 year lease), a small portion of the range is on city property.
“It was an understanding with the city that this was an activity, it wasn’t formalized,” senior planner Graham Watt said on Monday night. “With their requirements for shooting clubs and shooting ranges, they have to have tenure and compliance with zoning bylaws and that is why this has come up.”
To that end, the Wildlife Association asked council to consider a licence of occupation for the 0.219 hectare portion of the range on city land.
However, councillors expressed some concerns about granting the occupation for reasons including noise. At the April 9 meeting, Coun. Chris Hammett asked the club to consider or explore noise-mitigating factors like a berm or trees.
“I have concerns because we have residents … that have some concerns about the noise, we are between a rock and a hard place,” Hammett reiterated on Monday. “There is the possibility of exploring landscape of trees that might dampen the noise a bit.”
Hammett also noted that it was her understanding that while the range faces the mountain, the sound reverberates back. While before it may have been mitigated by the slag pile, the diminished pile is elevating noise concerns for neighbouring residents.
Also on the agenda on Monday night was a petition from seven neighbouring residents on Riverside Drive asking that council not allow the permit because of the noise and that the city “provide the Grand Forks Wildlife Association… assistance in finding a new location elsewhere.” The letter stated the opinion that the rifle range was in contravention of the noise bylaw because the use of the property disturbs the peace.
John McNamara spoke from the floor for the wildlife association. He addressed the hours of the range and the use of the range, both by members and for training days for RCMP and Canadian Border Services .
Coun. Colleen Ross proposed the wildlife association look at changing its hours, specifically shortening the hours to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, rather than the current 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., to help mitigate the noise concerns of the neighbours. Ross noted that many people, including herself, find the sound of gunfire upsetting.
“Times, they are changing, and people’s comfort with the sound of gunfire is changing,” she said.
McNamara said the range could be moved completely onto leased property if council chose to deny the licence. In response to suggestions from councillors, he said he would bring suggestions of reduced hours and potential noise-dampening methods to the next association meeting.
Coun. Julia Butler suggested the city look at a short-term licence, to give the city some flexibility should there be desire to develop the property in the future.
The original motion on the agenda to grant the licence of occupation was amended to become a temporary use permit to balance the competing concerns about residents and noise against the regulatory needs of the wildlife association. Ross voted against the motion.