The Range Was
This one is the "Mother of All Falsehoods".
Suffolk County Trap and Skeet range began life
on Gerard Road as the "Nassau Gun Club" back in
1954 and existed as a private gun club for about
ten years until the County assumed ownership of
the land under eminent domain around 1964. When
the Nassau Gun Club first opened its doors for
business, the noise generated from the facility
annoyed residents on Gerard Road. Complaints
were made and at least one resident retained an
attorney and it was determined that they receive
a nuisance fee.
other words, the houses WERE here before the
The Land Was "Deeded" to the
County to be forever used as a
The land on which the range exists today was
simply acquired by Suffolk County in the early
1960's under the rules of "eminent domain". No
wills, deeds, codicils, special instructions or
"dying declarations" were involved.
The Range Is "Grandfathered"
There is no "Grandfather Clause" in effect. The
range is simply a "non-conforming" use and is
subject to the rules which apply to that
The Range Is Exempt From Noise Laws
In May of 2003, the Suffolk County Legislature
voted on Resolution 1301 amending Chapter 366 of
the Laws of Suffolk County by Local Law
No.18-2003. The amendment included exempting
County shooting ranges from the application of
noise controls established by the County’s Noise
Ordinance if the facility’s use as a shooting
range predated January 1, 1980.
exemption removes any noise controls ON
COUNTY PROPERTY but has no authority to limit
Brookhaven Town’s noise ordinance or its
application to noise crossing the property line
from County land to Town land. In October of 2011, the New York State Supreme
Court ruled that the Town of Brookhaven has a "Constitutional Right" to enforce its noise law.
Because of this the Town can not only issue
citations for noise violations (as it has been
doing for quite some time) but those citations
can now be processed through the appropriate
court and will likely result in fines levied
against the range's operator and the County
UPDATE: On December 10,
2012 the Sixth District Court of Suffolk
County found the operator of the
shooting range guilty of violating
Section 50-5A of the Brookhaven Town
Code (the Town of Brookhaven noise law).
The ruling read (in part):
“After careful consideration of and
deliberation upon the evidence
presented, the Court finds the Defendant
[Hunter Sports Shooting Grounds, Inc.]
guilty of a violation of Town of
Brookhaven code, Section 50-5A.”
This of course means
that the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet
range is now officially violating the
The Range Wasn't "Abandoned"
Though the "dictionary definition" of
abandonment doesn't come into play, the LEGAL
definition does. Since the land in Southaven
Park rests in the Town of Brookhaven, it is
subject to Brookhaven zoning laws. Zoning laws
are inexorably connected to Pine Barrens Law
especially as it applies to the designation of a
"use", which in this case is a "non-conforming
use". Brookhaven zoning law stipulates that
the substantial discontinuance of any
nonconforming use of a structure or premises for
a period of one year or more terminates such
nonconforming use and thereafter such
structure or premises shall not be used, except
in conformity with the provisions of the Town
Code. The "one year" condition is known as a
"lapse period" and case law holds that
"abandonment" applies in the presence of such a
lapse period if a use has been discontinued for
longer than the specified time.
the range was closed four 4 years and 9 months
and the use of the property for its primary
purpose (a shooting range) was discontinued for
that time, the "one -year" requirement is easily
met and any first-year law student would have
easily been able to cite common property law as
the basis for this and so the question of
whether or not Suffolk county intended to reopen
the range is irrelevant since the lapse period
supersedes any issue of intent.
fact was brought to the attention of Suffolk
County and an attempt to bring the matter to
court was initiated by several residents but was
met with abject stonewalling on behalf of the
County and all who desired to see the range
reopened. This stonewalling continued for
years until the statute of limitations ran out
and thus the matter never saw the inside of a
courtroom. This was confirmed in 2010 when
the Pine Barrens Commission voted to take
jurisdiction of the property on which the range
is located and did then try to bring the matter
to court only to have their pleadings dismissed
by a judge citing that too much time had passed
and that the effort was "capricious".
on this subject (Zoning Law) click
It Would Cost Too Much Money To
Shut the Range
There have been some wild numbers tossed about
in regard to what it would cost to shut the
range and these numbers all relate to the cost
of a cleanup. While it's true that a full-scale
cleanup with the intent of returning the land to
active parkland could be substantial, options
exist beyond active use. Since proponents of
the range claim that the it poses no
environmental threat as it exists, the most
economic option would be to simply leave the
land "as is" and declare it "passive parkland",
the cost of which would be the price of some
fencing and a few "no trespassing" signs.
Another option would be to clean the most
obvious and concentrated areas of lead shot and
clay target debris and leave the rest in place.
April 2012, this very subject was addressed in a
letter written by DEC Regional Director Peter A.
letter, Mr. Scully states the following:
"Once the range is no longer
in use, it must be left in a
state that is protective of
health and the environment.
If there are munitions
remaining on the range, a
final range clearance
activity should be done to
remove any munitions on or
near the surface. If this is
done initially by solely
removing the lead shot and
metal casings, these can be
recycled under the hazardous
scrap metal exemption to
decrease costs. The
separated metal would not be
subject to storage and
labeling requirements, nor
is a hazardous waste
manifest required, and the
smelter or scrap metal
dealer does not need a
permit to accept the lead
scrap, but notification to
the Department is required.
Following the removal, the
site can either be sampled
to determine the extent of
contamination or the topmost
layer of soil can be removed
and end point samples
collected to determine if
the cleanup was sufficient.
If the groundwater table is
near the surface in the
area, a few groundwater
samples should be collected
as part of the endpoint
There is no specified
timeframe for the cleanup;
however there should be no
admittance to the property
until the cleanup has been
done. The level of cleanup
is dependent in part on
whether or not the
groundwater has been
impacted by the activity and
what the future use of the
site will be."
steps may cost some money but those costs would
be minimal and would likely be contractually
borne by the current licensee. Since there is
no specified time frame for any cleanup (even a
full-scale cleanup) costs can be deferred
indefinitely or until such time as it is
economically feasible and all that need be done
as far as safety is concerned would be to
restrict public access to the property.
contrary to many of the wildly astronomical
numbers that have been mentioned in regard to
this issue, the bottom line is that if the
County chose to close the range, they would be
required to do little more than to "turn off the
lights and lock the door" on their way out.
The Range Is Owned By The
The current operator of the range is simply a
licensee and actually has less say in property
issues than do most apartment renters.
The Range Makes Money for the
Nothing could be further from the truth. The
range does indeed generate revenue from usage
fees, but when those fees are weighed against
other costs, its value quickly diminishes to the
point of irrelevance.
on this subject click
There's No Place Else To Put The
There are at least eight other locations that
have been identified by the Trap and Skeet
Relocation Committee which was commissioned by
The Suffolk County Legislature. These alternate
locations are detailed in a report from that
committee entitled: "Trap and Skeet Search
Committee Report on Relocation Alternatives for
the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet Range".
the report click HERE
The Range's Land Has No Other
While it's true that if the land were to be used
again as active parkland it would require an
extensive and costly cleanup, but it should be
noted that this is not a reason to keep the
range where it is. If a cleanup needs to be
done, then that's what has to be done and a
simple disdain for wanting to do this is not
reason enough to forego relocation.
there are other uses for the land which would
require little more than fencing around the
shotfall areas and putting the clubhouse and its
existing parking area to use.
the alternative ideas which have been discussed
the clubhouse as a County Facilities building or
field office and the parking area could
accommodate County vehicles.
building could be used as a Community Center
The building could be
used as a new
headquarters for the
Park Police leaving
their present historic
buildings available for
are just some ideas for the building and parking
area based upon a cursory cleanup and
restriction of public access to the land. If
the County were to conduct a full-scale cleanup
and return the current shotfall areas to active
parkland, then the possibilities for use of that
land increase dramatically. So there are many
things which could be done with the land besides
restricting it to use as a shooting range but
remember that even if none of these ideas are
pursued, the land could simply be fenced off and
declared passive parkland as outlined by the DEC
(see Myth #6 above).
NOTE: In September of 2012, members of the
South Yaphank Civic Association (SYCA) met with
Jon Schneider at the County Executive's office
to introduce a proposal for an alternative use
of the land on which the range exists.
This meeting was also attended by Legislator
Kate Browning, Suffolk County Commissioner of
Parks, Greg Dawson, Sarah Landsdale of the
Suffolk County Planning Department as well as
various legal representatives from the County.
proposal was met with interest and enthusiasm as
it offers far more than simply closing the
shooting range and indeed presented a variety of
alternative uses as well as broad ranging
suggestions for Southaven Park as well.
The proposal addresses a number of issues beyond
the range itself and offers creative solutions
to help make Southaven Park, as well as the
region in general a more desirable place to live
and to visit.
read SYCA's proposal
"Greedy Developers and Realtors"
told homebuyers that the range
The reason why ANY substantial residential
development occurred in the area surrounding the
range goes all the way back to the early 1990's
when the Suffolk County Department of Parks &
Recreation told potential homebuyers that the
shooting range would cease operations at its
present location in 1995 and would be
were homebuyers told that the range would
relocate, but they were also told where it was
going; "to County land west of the Police
Headquarters on Yaphank Avenue." (this was
confirmed through calls placed to the Police
Headquarters where spokesmen there added that
the County was toying with the idea of
establishing a "dual-use" range on the property
which would consist of - part police range and
part public shooting range)
was not the builders or the realtors who told
people that the range was closing, it was the
in the summer of 1995, then Parks Commissioner
Michael Frank along with Deputy Commissioner
Chuck Skinner called a meeting of local
residents in the clubhouse at the range and
apologized to them for not being able to move
the range as promised citing the recent
construction of the new Suffolk County Infirmary
(later called the Foley Skilled Nursing Center)
as the reason. Residents were told that the
planned relocation site would be too close to
the new facility and would be a nuisance to the
patients residing there. Residents were then
handed a five-page pamphlet outlining various
improvements to be made at the range detailing
such relevant issues as gutters, kitchen
improvements, painting and other sundry items.
was exactly one page dedicated to what can only
be laughingly referred to as "noise abatement".
"plan" consisted of a sketch that seemed as if
it were drawn by a five-year-old which depicted
some berms and some tree plantings and little
else and we were supposed to believe that this
doodle which most likely took all of ten minutes
to produce represented some sort of effort
actual effort on the part of the County to
actually address the noise issue.
quite a while to stop laughing after we were
presented with this visionary document.
course none of that was ever done anyway, so the
County lied about THAT as well.
BONUS MYTH #2!
people who live near the range
were given "tax breaks".
After studying the overall effect of the
shooting range on homes in the area based on
noise complaint calls received by Brookhaven
Town, the Town Assessor’s office reduced the
assessed value of 178 homes in the area by an
average of 6% citing the reopening of the range
as the sole reason for the reduction.
assigns even a modest market value of just
$300,000 for each of these homes, that adds up
to a loss of community equity totaling over
THREE MILLION DOLLARS !
simple terms, this means that 178 homes are
worth $3 million less because of the presence of
the range. Naturally, if a property is worth
less, the taxes paid on property are also less.
But this does not represent a tax break; this
represents a loss in home value which is hardly
the same thing. That
loss in value translates into a loss in yearly
tax revenue to the Town of Brookhaven (estimated
at between $40,000 to $60,000) to the South
Country School District (estimated at $70,000 to
$80,000) as well as losses to the Fire
Department, Ambulance Corps. and other services
and this shortfall will always exist as long as
the range remains open.
"tax break", huh?