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Group fears development could threaten rifle range

November 13, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, PA.- For nearly 70 years, members of the Rouzerville Fish & Game Association have tried to be good neighbors to those living around their 37-acre site off Mentzer Gap Road.

Now, they're worried that their neighbors might not be good to them.

Last week, four of the association's members - Woody Stoner, Sidney Fitz, Reno Eyler and Joe Hess - met at the clubhouse to talk about their fears that new people moving into housing developments being built around the fish and game association property won't want to live near a place where there's a bunch of guys shooting guns.

The club restricts shooting to its rifle range. It has no skeet or trap range, and those shooting guns only can shoot into the high earthen banks behind the targets, Stoner said.

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Last week, Stoner, speaking for the association's 380 members, went before the Washington Township Supervisors to express their concerns.

"We went to the supervisors first because they are the grass roots of government," Stoner said. "We want their opinions about where we stand in light of all the development around us. We're afraid we may get squeezed out by anti-hunting and anti-gun people. Someday, maybe somebody will say that we're a public nuisance."

Stoner went away somewhat reassured by supervisors Chairman Arthur Cordell.

"If Harry Homeowner buys a house near your property, he'd better be aware that you were there first," Cordell said.

Stoner wanted to go a step further and make developers note in sales contracts that home buyers would be living near a shooting range.

"We want them to know we're here," Eyler said. "Some people wouldn't want to move next to us if they knew we were here."

Stoner told the supervisors that the club's rifle range is "the biggest bone of contention."

"It's safe," Stoner said. "No stray bullets can get by the earthworks we put in, but noise may be a problem."

It gets particularly busy around deer-hunting season, when members use the range to sight their rifles, Stoner said.

Prompting the members' fear that their club and way of life could come under threat was the loss of their longtime trout nursery on private property on Amsterdam Road. The club each year raised 8,000 to 10,000 trout, which they released into area streams, Stoner said.

Ownership of the property changed hands, and they were told to shut down the operation immediately, Stoner said.

The members said they were considering trying to get their club registered with the National Register of Historic Places as a way to protect it.

Fitz, whose late father, Hubert Fitz, was a charter member of the association when it was organized in 1936, said that at one time, the club raised pheasants for hunting around the area.

"This is also one of the few sportsmen's clubs around that doesn't have liquor," Fitz said.

Phyllis Fertig lives on the dirt lane that leads to the club. Her late husband, Walter, who died in 1998, "was an honorary member of the association. He used to go up there and checks things out for them," she said.

"We've never had any trouble from them," she said.

Some of the association's property abuts Washington Township's Pine Hill Recreational Area off Mentzer Gap Road. On another side, its property line is a mere 450 feet from former orchard land where a 451 single- and multifamily home development is under construction by Carlino Development Corp. of Wyomissing, Pa.,

Jerry Zeigler, code enforcement officer for Washington Township, predicted that the association will have problems down the road.

"A firing range in the midst of residential developments? What do you think is going to happen?" Zeigler said.

"We already had inquiries from Woodcrest Development," he said. "People said they were surprised to hear gunfire close by, that no one told them about the club."

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