AUGUSTA — Noise may be a problem for a proposal to expand one of the shooting ranges at Capitol City Rifle & Pistol Club.

A proposal for the private shooting club off Civic Center Drive to expand its plinking range, where shooters fire at unconventional items such as metal cans instead of paper targets, goes to the Augusta Planning Board for a public hearing Tuesday night.

An unrelated proposal, from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, also goes before the Planning Board to allow .22 firearms to be used at an existing range at its Youth & Family Educational Area off Route 3.

As proposed, the Capitol City Rifle & Pistol Club’s plinking range expansion plan does not comply with the city’s noise regulations, according to a review of the proposal by Betsy Poulin, deputy city planner.

A memo from Poulin cites noise as an “area of concern” with the proposal because decibel levels recorded at the property line, supplied by the applicant, exceed the 60 decibels allowed by city noise regulations.

She said the noise rules, which under state law would not otherwise apply to an existing shooting range, apply to the plinking range because city staff and its lawyer consider the expansion “a substantial change in use of an existing range and is subject to compliance with ordinance standards.”


Poulin said the expansion would double the size of the range.

The noise standards would apply only to the expanded plinking range, however, not to the range’s other outdoor shooting areas.

James Bouford, chief instructor for Capitol City Rifle & Pistol Club, wrote in the club’s application that the plinking range is not doubling in size, noting the range is now 7,125 square feet and the expansion would add 2,700 square feet.

Bouford said the club has a firing range divided into four areas, with a total area of 206,000 square feet. He said the expansion should not be considered a substantial change and the plinking range should thus not have to comply with city noise ordinance standards.

Bouford said Planning Board members have said previously the standard for a proposal to be considered a substantial change were the same as the standards that would trigger a minor development review by the city, including that it would involve 10,000 square feet of newly developed area.

“As ‘substantial change’ has not been defined by either the Augusta code or in the state law dealing with municipal noise ordinances applying to shooting ranges in use prior to Sept. 1, 2016, the members of the Augusta Planning Board were asked three times over the past 10 months as to what would be the defining criteria, at a workshop, a site visit and a public hearing,” Bouford wrote in application materials claiming the noise standards shouldn’t apply to the expansion.


“The response each time was that the definition of a minor development, or 10,000 square feet of newly developed area, would be the criteria.”

Sound level measurements taken at the property line of the club, while shooting was taking place at the plinking range with several different firearms, were measured by an app on a club member’s cellphone at 58 to 78 decibels.

A neighbor to the Capitol City property for 40 years, Dennis Lettre, in a letter to the city expressing concerns about the range, wrote that noise from shooting at the club’s multiple ranges sometimes takes place all day, seven days a week, and into the night.

Lettre wrote that the shooting is loud enough, from parts of his land, to damage one’s hearing. He said he has severe hearing loss in one ear and moderate loss in his other.

The city’s review of the project also cites the potential for projectiles to leave the property and suggests higher berms than those proposed be employed to increase safety.

Bouford’s written response states the berms planned for the expanded plinking range, and the layout of the range itself, would prevent projectiles from leaving the property an expectation, he noted, that “can be supported by the past 50 years’ experience at the Capitol City Rifle & Pistol Club.”


The Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing on the club’s request for a conditional use permit to expand its plinking range. The hearing is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday during the board’s meeting in the lecture hall at the Augusta City Center.

In the other shooting range proposal going to the board that night, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine seeks to add the use of .22-caliber firearms at an existing range at its Youth & Family Educational Area at 2273 North Belfast Ave. Currently, only archery and airguns may be used for target practice at the facility.

The staff review for that proposal indicates sound readings taken at its property line showed no increase in decibels when a .22-caliber firearm was discharged at the range, meaning it complies with city standards by not exceeding 60 decibels.

Board members are also scheduled to hold public hearings regarding proposals to:

• Rezone part of Winthrop Street to a new Westside Professional District zone.

• Build a new educational support center building for equipment storage, with a footprint of 1,440 square feet, at Viles Arboretum at 153 Hospital St.

• Allow applicant Peggy Davis to increase the capacity of her day care center at 608 and 612 Civic Center Drive from 96 to 115 children.

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