Neighbors of Clove Spring gun range want buffer between them and ‘painful’ noise

Wantage. Residents say the gun range wasn’t a problem under the previous owner, who kept to specific hours: “It wasn’t all day long,” one said. “The noise now is insane.”

| 10 Dec 2021 | 07:35

When Scott Paladino bought his Clove Road property, it was in bad shape, and the Clove Spring Range was closed. That was in 2001.

His organic fruit farm is now 12 years old, and the shooting range is open and emitting more noise than a jet engine. Paladino told the Wantage Township Committee said that a jet engine is defined as a “deafening sound,” registering at 140 decibels, while rock concerts deemed as “painful” register at 120 decibels. The shooting exceeds both: a .223 rifle comes in at 156 decibels, a 12-guage shotgun at 152, and a 22-inch long rifle at 130, he said.

According to New Jersey’s Noise Control Act of 1971, statewide sound levels are 65 decibels during the daytime and 50 decibels at night, from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. “Some of these readings are three times the acceptable level for the state of New Jersey,” Paladino said. “This is unsustainable for us.”

Paladino was among several area residents brought their noise complaints about the range to the Wantage Township Committee.

“You cannot sit outside and have a conversation like this with people without shelling,” said Skytop Road resident Steven Szalczinger at the committee’s Nov. 18 meeting.

Clove Road resident Judy Nelson said the noise from the range is constant, except for Monday through Wednesday when the range is closed, and except when private events are being held on those days. Regular hours are Thursday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

‘How can you stand sitting here?’

Szalczinger’s wife, Lisa, said when they bought their house on Skytop Road 26 years ago, the gun range, which was then active, was not disclosed to them. But it wasn’t a problem for the previous owner, she said.

“It wasn’t all day long,” she said. “It had specific hours, and it wasn’t as noisy. The noise now is insane. The people down there are getting it right up against them. Up on Skytop it reverberate, and it’s a completely different sound, but trust me, it’s as annoying as my husband was saying. You can hear it on the phone. We’ve had people over and they’re like, ‘How can you stand sitting here?’”

She said she recorded the sounds for about a minute the previous Sunday but did not play them for the committee.

Residents who spoke emphasized that their goal isn’t to shut the range down. They only want the property owner – who does not live in the area – to create barriers to block some of the noise neighbors. Paladino offered hay bales, but they don’t last long.

Clove Road resident Larry Nelson said concrete barriers and three-sided buildings padded with foam are needed to effectively buffer the noise.

Mike Altirs, owner of MNL Farm, on which the range is located, could not be reached for comment.

“Obviously, we’re in an awkward spot,” Committeeman Ron Bassani said. He said the mayor, Bill Gaechter, “is going to be responsible and try to work with this individual along with Michael” – Michael Restel, the clerk administrator – “and our attorneys, if necessary, to reach a compromise.”

“You cannot sit outside and have a conversation like this with people without shelling.” Steven Szalczinger