TOWNSEND -- The Townsend Police Department is eyeing municipally-owned land near the capped landfill off Greenville Road to use as a firing range.
"We realized over the years that we have to increase our training," Lt. David Profit told the Planning Board on Dec. 17.
"The new range will probably be used a dozen times a year," he said.
"We're just looking for a site before we start planning," Profit said.
The location is 500 feet away from any homes and 300 feet away from a road as required by state regulations, said Officer George Reidy, one of two firearms instructors in the department.
Presently the department holds training at the Townsend Rod and Gun Club. The club has been very gracious, but the department's needs have outgrown the facility, Profit said.
The range needs to be shut down while the department members train, Reidy said. Some training scenarios involve driving a cruiser onto the range and using an old car as a target.
"Their range is not set up for that," said Sgt. John Johnson, the other department firearms instructor.
Another challenge faced at the rod and gun club is the need to train in low-light situations.
"We can't shoot at night," Reidy said.
"We've simply outgrown what we can do at the rod and gun club," Johnson said.
The department is eligible to use a range in Devens that meets all their needs, but the busy range is difficult to book, the instructors said.
Construction at the planned range would be minimal. Earth berms at each side and an impact berm at the far end of the range would be installed, Johnson said. It already has an access road and is gated and fenced. A storage shed for targets would likely be installed. The department might also install a roof to over a sheltered area like the rod and gun club has, Reidy said.
Only eight people would train at one time and the only people to use the range will be members of the Townsend Police Department.
The first thing the department should do is contact the Zoning Enforcement Officer Rich Hanks to see if a site plan is needed, said Planning Board Chairman Jeffrey Peduzzi.
The request is from a municipal entity for a municipal purpose on municipal land, he said. In the event that a site plan is needed, the board can waive fees for the municipal project. Because no permanent buildings are planned, no additional parking is needed and no infrastructure like a septic system will be added, there may be no need for a site plan, he said.
If no site plan is needed, the department's next step would be to approach the Board of Selectmen.
"I think it's no different than using the great hall," Peduzzi said.
The land is zoned industrial, so the noise from the shooting should be appropriate. "If you live near an industrial zone, it's like living near the railroad track," he said.
The range would not need to be used past 9 p.m. The Townsend Rod and Gun Club uses its ranges until that time, Reidy said.
Peduzzi said the department should have a plan to clean up spent munitions. The proposed site is near the headwaters of the Squannacook River and is in a Massachusetts Division of Conservation and Restriction Area of Critical Concern.
The department should give abutters a courtesy notice of their plans and be prepared to answer questions.
"When the newspaper article comes out (saying that) there's going to be a shooting range, you're going to be getting calls," he said.
The department is ready for that, Profit said.
"We want to play nice in the sandbox," he said.