Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Neighbors sue Ashland Gun Club east of the Ashland Municipal Airport-Sumner Parker Field (S03), Ashland, Oregon

Three neighbors have sued the Ashland Gun Club and the city of Ashland, alleging that lead ammunition is contaminating the environment and stray bullets are striking the property of one of the neighbors.

Dr. Edward Kerwin and Cathy DeForest and her husband, Leon Pyle, filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Medford on Dec. 23.

They are represented by attorney Tom Dimitre, who is also chairman of the Rogue Group Sierra Club.

The gun club has leased city-owned land east of the Ashland Municipal Airport since the 1960s.

DeForest and Pyle own a 5,085-square-foot 2007 home on 13 acres on Emigrant Creek Road southeast of the Ashland Gun Club, according to Jackson County records.

Kerwin built a 19,045-square-foot house on 56 acres on Dead Indian Memorial Road to the north of the gun club in 2004, according to county records.

The gun club's various shooting ranges generally point to the north and northeast. Kerwin alleges that bullets are striking his property.

Pyle said this week that he can't discuss the lawsuit at this point. DeForest and Kerwin were each out of town and unavailable for comment.

City Attorney David Lohman said he cannot discuss the lawsuit in detail.

But he said that city officials worked hard to incorporate environmental safeguards when they renegotiated a lease with the gun club in 2011.

Among other provisions, the lease tasks the gun club with regularly cleaning up lead on the property. It also places the responsibility for final lead clean-up on the gun club, should the site ever cease operations as a shooting range.

The neighbors' lawsuit targets the city, the gun club and seven past and present members of the gun club's board of directors — including city Finance and Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg.

The lawsuit contends that activities at the gun club are violating a number of environmental laws, including federal laws to protect water and endangered species.

The lawsuit states that the defendants are polluting nearby Emigrant Creek and its connected wetlands, which threatens coho salmon habitat. They are also contaminating the ground, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit states that the city has added to problems on the land by dumping street sweeper debris near Emigrant Creek.

The neighbors are asking a judge to block activities at the gun club that violate environmental laws, to require the defendants to pay for soil and water sampling arranged by the plaintiffs and to pay for any needed environmental restoration.

The neighbors also want the defendants to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for every day they allegedly violated the Clean Water Act — dating back for decades.

They also want payments for attorney's fees, costs, mental anguish and other damages.

— Vickie Aldous

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