Little sympathy for shooting foes

It's a familiar refrain: A family moves into a home adjacent to a long-existing industrial site, ranch or school and soon begins to complain about production noises, animal smells or children squealing on the playground.

But Ashland's latest "neighborhood" squabble tops the usual fare because of the egregious nature of the new neighbor's comments and home.

In the 1960s, the Ashland Gun Club began operating on property east of the Ashland airport. In 2004, Dr. Ed Kerwin built a 19,045-square-foot home on 56 acres north of the gun club. In December, Kerwin and another neighbor filed a lawsuit against the gun club and the city of Ashland.

That suit should not come as a surprise. A March 24, 2011 story in the Tidings reported that Kerwin said he would sue if the city renewed the gun club's license and would include in the suit " ... any councilor who votes on the issue if that councilor has ever been a member of the Ashland Gun Club or any gun club, has ever fired a weapon there, or has any friends, family members or long-term acquaintances who are members of the Ashland Gun Club."

Not very neighborly, Doc.

Kerwin and his neighbors, Cathy DeForest and Leon Pyle, who live in a 5,085-square-foot house they built in 2007 near the gun club, say the club's activities are polluting the ground and nearby streams with lead ammunition and that shots from the club are striking their properties. They are represented by attorney Tom Dimitre, who is also chairman of the Rogue Group Sierra Club and a leading opponent of the Mount Ashland ski area expansion.

There are several factors in this case that cause people to have very little sympathy for their case. Among them are Kerwin's bullying approach (see above), the monster of a house he built on rural land and the fact that the city has made legitimate efforts to deal with the issue.

The city found itself in a bind. If it did not renew the gun club license, cleanup of the property would fall to the city, at a cost potentially approaching $1 million. So it worked with the club to improve clean-up of the site and paid more than $113,000 for testing of the grounds.

The truth is, few people believe Kerwin and the other new neighbors are taking the action because of environmental concerns. For starters, if you're that concerned about the environment, why are you building a 19,045-square-foot house, or even a 5,085-square-foot house? Any homes built in rural areas, especially homes of that size, have a significant environmental impact. The real reason for this clearly appears to be that the owners of the new homes are unhappy with the disturbance caused by the gun club — despite the fact they must have known about the gun club when they decided to locate there.

Instead of alienating the community with threats and putting the already cashed-strapped city at risk of a major expense it can ill afford, the plaintiffs should lower the rhetoric and seek some common ground with the gun club. It's the neighborly thing to do.

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