VALATIE–The Town Board held a special session before the regular monthly meeting this week to review a report by Wayne Voss about concerns from residents of Bells Acres that bullets fired from the Tri-Village Rod and Gun Club have reached the development.
The Monday, July 8 meeting, held in the courtroom at the Martin H. Glynn Building, was attended by several residents of Bells Acres and members of the Rod and Gun, the latter wearing green gun club t-shirts.
Mr. Voss, a retired state trooper and current town building inspector, was asked by the board to interview Bells Acres residents and look into their reports of bullets flying near their homes and 24 “projectiles” found this spring on their properties. Supervisor Pat Grattan asked Mr. Voss to prepare the report at the June meeting, where he also discussed the cost of hiring a ballistics expert from New Jersey. He said in the June that Mr. Voss’ report would be a preliminary step to save the town money by collecting information the expert would need.
Mr. Voss wrote in his report, “While the concerns [of] neighboring homeowners may be warranted, they have not produced any significant evidence that shows an actual viable threat.” He did make suggestions that the residents and the gun club need to create an open dialogue to discuss the situation. He also suggested the club hire a “rangemaster,” improve its signage and have more restrictive after-hours access. “Alternatively, or in addition to the above, the Town of Kinderhook, and its authorities (ZBA) could consider granting fencing height variances to the residents that would allow them to construct a barrier of their design and choosing to install on the adjoining property lines.”
Mr. Voss said at the meeting that the report reflected “my personal conclusions, my personal suggestions.” He said that the board could take his suggests or not. Mr. Voss also said, “People at the gun club think this is not about safety but about sound.”
Katherine Tretheway, one of the residents of Bells Acres who called state troopers last summer when she heard a bullet go over her house, said after Mr. Voss’s presentation, “We are here tonight because we want to avert a tragedy.” She and other neighbors stressed that sound was not the issue.
“We all bought our houses knowing that we border the road and gun club,” said resident Melynda Wayne. She stressed that she doesn’t feel safe letting her son play in their yard and asked the board to bring in an expert to look at the issues. “We need an expert because we’re saying we are not experts,” said Ms. Wayne.
Bill Better, the lawyer representing the club, said he didn’t think a ballistics expert would solve anything. He said that this was an issue between neighbors and that the club takes gun safety very seriously. “They are feeling somewhat attacked,” Mr. Better said of the club.
After hearing from more neighbors and supporters of the Rod and Gun Club, Town Attorney Andy Howard advised the board that the burden of proof was on the neighbors. He said if they find conclusive evidence, then it would be a “classic private nuances case.”
“At the end of the day, it’s about proof,” he told the board. He said later, “The burden of proof stands with the residents.”
Supervisor Grattan asked for motion to hire a metallurgist to date the projectiles found in the neighbors’ yards to help determine when the rounds were fired. During discussion on the motion Town Board member Glenn Smith asked whether the neighbors had reached out to the gun club to resolve the issue. Ms. Trethaway said she was turned down when she asked the gun club to meet with a mediator.
Club President Tracy Knott said that the neighbors asked for “litigation or mediation,” and the board turned down meeting with a mediator that could lead to litigation.
“I don’t want to see the town get involved with litigation,” said Councilman Smith. Board members Smith and Deb Simonsmeier voted no on the motion; Tim Ooms abstained.
Deputy Supervisor Pasty Leader, a member of the club who has taught safety classes there, voted against the motion, saying that the Tri-Village Club is “the safest club I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Supervisor Grattan voted yes, saying, “I think it deserves to be looked at by some sort of expert.”
The motion to hire a metals expert was defeated and no motion was made to hire a ballistics expert. Mr. Grattan said the board had just received the report from Mr. Voss that night. Board members did not discuss following up on any of the suggestions Mr. Voss made.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .