The North Country Sportsmen’s Club in Williston is a trap shooting club. It has been at its present
location for decades. Recently the Town of Williston has taken action to illegally order the club to
cease firing on the range. The letter below was sent to several town officials several days ago.
The day after this letter was sent by E-mail, two officers from the Williston Police Department
arrived at the NCSC property, which was conducting normal Sunday trap shooting activities.
The club was issued a $250.00 citation for a violation of a 2004 Williston noise ordinance, which as
related in the letter, is superceded by the 2006 amendment to the Vermont Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights
and is not in compliance with the Town of Williston Firearm Discharge Ordinance, as amended in 2011.
The citation issued to the NCSC is an attachment to this E-mail. Any future citations can be in the
amount of $500.00. Which could drive any club in Vermont out of business.
The personnel of the NCSC and the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs have taken several acts
to inform the Town of Williston officials the municipality its actions against NCSC are wrong and illegal.
If you believe the Town of Williston should comply with state law and its own fire arm discharge
ordinance, you can call the town hall at 802-878-5121 or 802-878-0919 or by E-mail with polite message:
“Town of Williston: Please Stop Illegal Actions to Close the NCSC”
Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Inc.
Proudly Serving Vermont Since 1875
16 Millstone Blvd., Barre, VT 05641
Town Manager – Town of Williston
7900 Williston Road
Williston, VT 05495
May 9th, 2015
The Town of Williston has been interacting with the North Country Sportsmen’s Club (NCSC) with regard to the shooting performed at this existing sport shooting club. The Town has been referencing a noise ordinance dated 10/25/2004 as its source of authority to regulate shooting at the NCSC.
The Town of Williston failed to note that in 2006 the Vermont Legislature amended 24 V.S.A. § 2291(8) so as to prevent municipalities from regulating firearm discharge at existing sport shooting ranges as defined in 10 V.S.A. § 5227.
The NCSC was and remains such a protected existing sport shooting range. In addition, the Town of Williston has failed to recognize its own Firearm Discharge Ordinance amended on 8/15/2011, which acknowledges in Section V that it does not have the authority to regulate an existing sport shooting range, such as the NCSC as referenced below:
SECTION V – EXEMPTIONS – ACTS AUTHORIZED BY STATUTE
This ordinance shall not apply to the discharge of firearms by police officers, sheriffs constables, game wardens and other statutorily designated law enforcement officers in the performance of their legal duties. This ordinance shall not be construed to limit any rights or immunities to discharge firearms in the defense or protection of person or property provided by Vermont Statutes. Nor shall this ordinance apply to the discharge of firearms on any existing sport shooting range, as defined in 10 V.S.A., section 5227.
The Town of Williston has attempted to impose a set of regulations that by state law it is barred from enacting. On Sunday, May 3 the Town of Williston went so far as to dispatch its police officers to the NSCS property to order the end of shooting at a trap shooting event.
The NCSC officials declined to cease shooting so the officers departed, but later they returned to order a halt to the perfectly lawful trap shooting event. The NCSC officials again declined to stop shooting, and the officers demanded to be told of the identity of all of those present. When the NCSC officials declined The police told the NCSC officials they would subpoena the identity of those present at the trap shooting event.
At the Town of Williston Select Board meeting on Monday evening, May 4, it was stated by a citizen that the Williston police officers had recorded the license plate numbers at the trap shooting activity on the previous day. During that meeting, I identified myself and my affiliation with the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, and I informed both the town manager and the entire select board that it did not have the lawful authority to regulate the shooting operations at the NCSC.
All of the Town of Williston officials present were informed as to the restrictions imposed in 2006 by 24 V.S.A. § 2291(8), that NCSC was protected as an existing sport shooting range per 10 V.S.A. § 5227, and that the Town of Williston was not in compliance with its own Firearms Discharge Ordinance amended in 2011.
At the Wednesday, May 6 PM trap shooting activities at the NCSC law enforcement personnel of the Town of Williston arrived and demanded the lawful shooting activities cease. The police cited the 2004 noise discharge ordinance, displaying a copy of said ordinance.
The NCSC official present then produced a document which gave a counter position from the Town of Williston to the police.
The Town of Williston does not have the lawful authority to regulate the shooting activities as per 24 V.S.A. § 2291(8) and 10 V.S.A. § 5227.
The Town of Williston Firearm Ordinance bars it from regulating the perfectly legal trap shooting activities. Yet, the Town of Williston continues to aggressively act to enforce such restrictions to the point of sending police officers to the NCSC property not once but three times to unlawfully order an end to lawful trap shooting activities. The police officers further demanded the identify of citizens engaged in a lawful activity on private property. The police threatened to subpoena the identify of these citizens and according to another citizen at the above said select board meeting recorded the license plate numbers of the vehicles present at the NCSC on Sunday, May 3.
Where a use pre-dates an ordinance-based restriction, and where that use was entirely legal prior to the ordinance and has continued without cessation, the owner has a vested right to continue that use and the ordinance cannot deprive the property owner of the right to continue that use – or else the scenario becomes an unconstitutional taking of property. Rutland v. Keiffer,124 Vt. 357 (Vt. 1964).
The Town of Williston must immediately end its demands to the NCSC with regard to its shooting operations. The Town of Williston must end the use of its police officers to impose a termination of shooting at perfectly lawful shooting operations and the demands of its officers to be told the identify of those present and to threaten to subpoena the club for those identities must immediately end.
The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs takes the protection of the Vermont Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights and the protection of its member clubs very seriously. Seriously enough that the Town of Williston should become familiar with 42 USC 1983.
VP – Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs