Saltspring shooting range draws fire, but stays open

The Capital Regional District is officially turning a deaf ear to the sound of gunfire coming from a Saltspring Island shooting range during daylight hours.

After receiving what CRD chairman Nils Jensen described as “an avalanche” of noise complaints about the Salt Spring Island Rod and Gun Club, CRD directors have agreed to a policy saying complaints of shooting between 9 a.m. and sunset “will not be considered, logged or investigated.”

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Jensen said the policy attempts to balance the interests of the gun club with those of neighbours, while following the direction of the B.C. Supreme Court. In 2013, the court ruled that shooting at the club was allowed between 9 a.m. and sunset and quashed tickets the CRD had issued against the club.

The club, at 223 Long Harbour Rd., has operated a clubhouse, an indoor and outdoor shooting range, a trap-shooting field, an archery field and other facilities since 1961 — long before homes were built nearby.

But over the past few years, the regional district says, it has received complaints from neighbours about noise from the club on almost a daily basis. Some of the complaints are repeated and are of a “harassing nature” targeted at specific people.

“An example of the type of correspondence being received was a reference in an email on January 10, 2015, comparing the conditions of the neighbours to the recent experience of residents in Paris during the terrorist attacks in which citizens were deliberately killed,” says the staff report.

Jensen, a lawyer, called the situation “a complex legal issue with currently as many as five lawsuits and one appeal.”

The CRD staff report notes that the gun club has drastically reduced its hours and the outdoor range is open only five hours a week for trap shooting.

“On balance the gun club appears to be working to eliminate misuse of the range by its members. The public website clearly states the allowable hours and strongly encourages all members to adhere to the posted hours as legally required. Further, the gun club has installed cameras to monitor the range after hours,” says the staff report.

“Although the potential for misuse by individuals remains, it appears the gun club has taken reasonable steps to adhere to the noise bylaw.”

Jensen said the volume of complaints has been a very significant drain on enforcement resources.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns commended CRD staff for what he called “a sensible resolution” to the situation.

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt said the policy is probably a good short-term fix, but that the club’s days are likely numbered.

“I don’t think this problem is going to go away. If we look at the long run, over a decade or a couple of decades, I think the meter is running on this club,” Isitt said.

“I think they’d be wise to try to find land on a less populated part of Saltspring Island where they’re not going to have neighbours essentially perpetually up in arms against their activities.”

Directors agreed to have CRD lawyers mail copies of the new policy to gun club neighbours.

Neither a spokesperson for the club nor the neighbours could be reached.

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