Council approves lease for gun club

An Ashland City Council majority approved a modified lease of city-owned property to the Ashland Gun Club, but the club may not accept the terms of the lease.

On Tuesday night, the council majority voted to approve the lease, which requires the city and gun club to share the costs of an environmental assessment of the 66 acres of city land. The gun club uses 32 acres of the property and has been at the site for four decades.

Assistant City Attorney Megan Thornton estimated the cost of the environmental study to be about $5,000.

The gun club alone would bear the costs of cleaning up any lead contamination from ammunition.

Cleanup costs are unknown. However, shooting range clean-ups in other locations have ranged widely in cost, from an estimated $200,000 for an 11-acre parcel near Elk Rapids, Michigan, to up to $4.5 million for a six-acre San Francisco-area site.

The issue of the gun club lease extension has come before the council multiple times.

The council made further changes to the draft lease before adopting it Tuesday night.

The initial clean-up must be completed within five years, and the area must be cleaned again at least every five years, councilors unanimously decided.

City Councilor Eric Navickas said the draft lease had a major hole in because it did not require the gun club to remove lead contamination that will likely build up after the initial cleaning.

"We've really been pretty negligent in the management of this property to not require clean-up over 40 years," he said.

Navickas said he is a strong supporter of the gun club and the recreational opportunities it provides. But he said the National Rifle Association itself recommends cleaning of shooting ranges at intervals of one to five years.

The current lease expires in 2009. The new lease would expire in 2019 if the city and gun club do not renew the lease at that time. If the new lease expires, a council majority voted that the gun club would have to clean the site to residential standards.

Councilors Navickas, David Chapman, Kate Jackson, Alice Hardesty and Russ Silbiger ultimately voted to approve the new lease with the changes. Councilor Cate Hartzell voted against the lease extension. Mayor John Morrison votes only to break ties.

Hartzell said that the land used by the gun club "could provide a significant return if there was a change of use in the future."

Chuck Parlier, president of the Ashland Gun Club, said after the vote that the club recently acquired an attorney. He said members and their attorney will need to go over the proposed new lease and consider the changes the council made to the draft version.

The gun club and city will probably have to continue negotiating, Parlier said.

"It will probably go back and forth," he said.

The lease calls for the city to continue leasing the land to the gun club at no cost. The gun club would continue paying expenses such as Jackson County property taxes.

The Ashland Police Department had been paying the gun club $1,200 per year for police officers to practice shooting at the site. The gun club has offered to let the police department use the facilities for free, Police Chief Terry Holderness said.

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