VASSALBORO — About 30 people turned out for a public hearing on the location and size of “exploding targets” for shooting practice, a pastime that has led to complaint from several residents about the loud noise caused by the use of the targets.
The ordinance would limit the power of the exploding target, which is made of an explosive combination of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder. When packed inside an object, the material explodes on impact from a high-speed projectile, such as a rifle shot.
The proposed ordinance would allow a target to contain no more than 1 pound of the mixture and prohibit the use of the exploding target within 500 yards of a dwelling or occupied building without the owner’s consent.
Most residents who turned out for the hearing complained about the noise made when the targets explode.
“When I hear it, I wonder how close it is to my house and I wonder if I’m safe,” said Jan Murton, a Vassalboro resident who has heard the explosions multiple times from her home on Gray Road. “I completely support gun rights, but what are they doing? What is this? Why do people do this?”
Resident John Cote, one of the few in attendance who opposed the restrictions on exploding targets, compared the loud noise to fireworks.
“It lasts a second, âbang,’ then it’s done,” said Cote, who is one of the shooters. “To see trees blow up is pretty fun. To see fireworks is fun. To hear loud noises is fun.”
The public hearing, which lasted about 45 minutes, included discussion of the proposed ordinance’s wording, which would limit where the explosive could be detonated and how much could be mixed. Several selectmen commented that the proposal, which has gone through several revisions, was written in a way that they hope would win support of a majority of voters at Town Meeting.
Several residents called for an outright ban on the explosive mixture in town, but Selectman Philip Haines said the board didn’t see that as proposal which would pass.
Some at the hearing said they think the proposal doesn’t go far enough to prevent the sound from bothering neighbors and damaging property.
“I do know I’ve lost window panes from the sound,” said Kevin Reed. “I’m further than 500 yards away, and I already have property damage attributed to it. If the ordinance was extended to 750 yards, they’d have to ask my permission.”
While defending the practice of shooting at explosive targets, Cote admitted that he and friends do go overboard from time to time.
“I’m not saying it’s not excessively loud; not saying that one bit,” he said. “We get excessive sometimes, just like anybody else.”
The proposal will be voted on at the Town Meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 2 in the Vassalboro Community School gymnasium.