Glastonbury dodges gun range bullet
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Mon., May. 20, 2013
Glastonbury will not be the site of a new Connecticut State Police gun practice facility, according to a message from state Sen. Steve Cassano (D-4) to Town Council Chair Stewart Beckett on the evening of May 14. The message came just as a public comment portion of a town council meeting was to begin regarding the matter. The council had recessed after completing most of its regular agenda, and it was during that recess when the call apparently came from Cassano.
The proposed site was in part of the Meshomasic State Forest, off of Toll Gate Road. Several Glastonbury residents spoke at a public scoping hearing on May 9.
Town Manager Richard Johnson explained that Glastonbury first learned of the state's plans to build the gun range in town back on March 27. “Generally, the statute provides a 30-day window from the notice,” he said. “This is not subject to any local control. We knew right away that was too expeditious a schedule for Glastonbury.”
Johnson said requests were made for extensions of the process, and the state had granted a two-week delay for the public notice process. The town has also sent out notices to residents near the site about the proposal – something it was not required to do. “It was a very challenging schedule. There was very little notice provided to the town,” Johnson said.
Councilman Kurt Cavanaugh read aloud a letter that the town was going to send to the state of Connecticut, which included how the gun range would go against the town's plan of conservation and development, would conflict with a protected habitat for timber rattlesnakes, and would seemingly conflict with the state's plan for protecting open space.
Cavanaugh's reading of the letter received cheers from the crowd, but Beckett held his announcement of Cassano's call until afterward.
“He was in with the chief of staff in the governor's office,” Beckett explained. “The governor's office has pulled its recommendation and we will have a letter within 48 hours... the state is dropping its proposal.”
The crowd stood and cheered at length. Many who had worked gathering petition signatures hugged each other.
Council members praised residents for making their stance known. “I want to put a special thanks out to all of you, who really started from the ground on day one when we heard about this,” said Councilman Larry Byar. “This was never going to be a good thing for the town of Glastonbury.”
“It's because of you that this happened,” Councilwoman Jill Barry told the crowd.
“It's your vigilance, and the worst that could ever happen would be for you to go away,” said Councilman Tom Gullotta. “You don't want to go away – not on environmental issues.”
“It definitely restores your faith in the system,” said resident Wesley Shepherd.
Councilman Tim Coon, a colonel in the Army Reserves and an instructor at the Connecticut Police Academy, said he was personally in favor of the firearms training facility, but realized that as a representative for the town, that Glastonbury residents clearly were against the range's proposed location.
“I have professional expertise in the mitigation of the concerns expressed, and strongly believe that the dire consequences envisioned by many will not occur,” Coon said. “I have also prided myself, during my tenure on the Board of Education and the Town Council, as being someone who listens to the community. My personal convictions are to take second place to the convictions to the citizens of Glastonbury.”
Beckett and others added that they support the need for a training facility, and would like to assist the state in their search for a location. “I certainly want the state police to have a well-qualified and trained SWAT group,” Beckett said. “I think sometimes we get so worried about ourselves that the greater community gets forgotten. I think if we're going to have a range, it's got to go somewhere, and nobody's going to want it in their backyard. I think we still have a lot of work to do.”