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Leyden Rifle Club wants to ‘take cover’

Taking another shot at permit variance for firing line roof

The Leyden Rifle Club seeks to put a roof over its firing line, at right. The club built the pavilion in the background last fall and the firing line's roof would be a simpler structure.
(Recorder/David Rainville)

The Leyden Rifle Club seeks to put a roof over its firing line, at right. The club built the pavilion in the background last fall and the firing line's roof would be a simpler structure. (Recorder/David Rainville) Purchase photo reprints »

LEYDEN — The Leyden Rifle Club is once again taking aim at a permit to put a roof over its firing line.

“We’re going to make one more attempt to get a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals,” said Elwin Barton, club treasurer and spokesman. “If we don’t, we may have to go back to court.”

Barton said the club has yet to file permit paperwork with the ZBA.

The club had put a roof over the line in 2002, but it lacked the necessary permits. In 2005, the town ordered the roof to come down, along with a pavilion also erected in 2002.

The line sits 25 feet from the road, but only 20 feet from the stone wall at the road’s edge, Barton said. He said River Road is considered a “county road,” meaning any measurements must be taken from the edge of the stone wall instead of the roadbed, putting the firing line too close to the road to build a roof without a variance.

In 2005, the club was given a hardship variance by the ZBA, which decided that forcing the club to move the firing line and the concrete backstop at the other end of the range would be too costly. The decision also stated that building a roof closer to the road than allowed “neither contributes or takes away from the public good.”

Several neighbors, some in Leyden and some in Vermont, appealed the decision along with the Planning Board. The Housing Court judge ruled against the variance, the permit was revoked and the roof and pavilion were torn down.

Barton believes some of those neighbors weren’t against the structures themselves, but the group that leased the range from the club.

The structures were built at the request of security firm Wackenhut, which provides the guards who watch over the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Those guards had used the rifle club’s range for target practice after 9/11, when the company upgraded from shotguns to rifles.

The 200-yard rifle range and concrete backstop at the Leyden Rifle Club were just what they needed to practice with high-powered rifles.

After the pavilion and range roof were torn down, Wackenhut and the Vermont Yankee guards stopped leasing the range from the club.

Last fall, the club rebuilt the pavilion on top of the concrete slab where the old one stood. This time it was done with the proper permits and some help from a $3,000 grant from the Friends of the National Rifle Association.

The grant paid for much of the materials, Barton said, and club members rolled up their sleeves and did the labor. If they’d had to contract the job out, Barton expects it would have cost close to $15,000.

Barton said the pavilion lets the club host events like two upcoming, family-oriented shooting weekends put on by Project Appleseed. The nationwide Project Appleseed is a part of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, which teaches Revolutionary War history as well as marksmanship skills.

Barton said the group would’ve passed the Leyden Rifle Club over if it wasn’t for the covered pavilion.

“They like our club, they called it ‘the hidden gem in the woods,’ but they need a place where they can get into the shade or out of the rain.”

Adding a roof over the firing line could make the club even more attractive to outside groups as well as the club’s 200 members.

Barton said the club schedules a handful of club-wide shooting days during the summer months, and attendance has dropped a bit since the previous roof was torn down.

Besides keeping shooters and their equipment dry and shielding their eyes from the morning sun, a roof over the range could benefit neighbors.

“The cover would cut down on the noise from the range, though it wouldn’t eliminate it,” Barton said.

The club, at the end of River Road on the Vermont border, was founded in 1935, and has members from Leyden and surrounding towns as well as some from other New England states and New York, who like to shoot at the range when they’re in town.

The rifle club gives back to the town, donating $100 each year to the Leyden United Methodist Church, to help with the costs of and provide prizes for the annual Easter egg hunt.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 On Twitter, follow @RecorderRain

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