Ashland Gun Club's lease up for renewal amid complaints

ASHLAND — Reduced hours and other uses for the land are among options the City Council will address when it decides next month whether to renew the Ashland Gun Club's lease for another 10 years.

The club's lease on 66 acres of land near the municipal airport expires in May. The club has requested the lease be extended to 2029 to secure grants from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Friends of the National Rifle Association for improvements to the site, including lead cleanup. The grants require recipients have at least a 10-year lease agreement.

Neighbors expressed concerns regarding noise, hours, traffic and lack of environmental testing on possible pollution during a council study session June 17.

Many council members supported renewing the lease if it included a "good neighbor clause" that would cut down hours of operation.

City Attorney Richard Appicello said state law allows gun clubs to operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A draft lease prepared by gun club representatives and city officials indicates the club would operate from 8 a.m. to sunset Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to sunset on the weekend.

Neighbor Steve Sacks told the council he'd like the club to cut back the number of hours and eliminate Sunday shooting.

"I wouldn't think eliminating that one day would be a hardship to them," he said.

Neighbors also requested the club close on holidays.

Council members joined neighbors in expressing concern that the club hadn't done any lead or other environmental testing since it opened 40 years ago.

Mike LaNier, a gun club member, told the council that one of the grants the club is waiting for would help clean up the lead.

"But we haven't done testing because our future has been up in the air," he said.

Appicello said the lease should set a formal deadline for testing and cleanup within the next year or two.

If the lease isn't renewed, that land could be used for extending the Bear Creek Greenway to Emigrant Lake or to build affordable housing, or it could be sold, said City Administrator Martha Bennett.

Council members David Chapman and Eric Navickas and Mayor John Morrison opposed selling the land.

"I think there would be a real furor if we sold that land," Morrison said.

Councilwoman Alice Hardesty said she wondered if the gun club needed all 66 acres.

"I'm reluctant to give up all 66 acres to the gun club for 10 years when a portion of the property could be used for something else," she said.

The proposed lease, if approved, would run through 2019, and would require the gun club to renew every year after that for the next 10 years.

Bennett said the lease could include a provision that would terminate the lease if the city needed the land for an emergency.

Bennett anticipated the lease will come back to the council on July 15.

Michele Mihalovich is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 492-3456 or

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