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Newtown memorial proposal deemed too close to hunting club

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission has voted unanimously to remove a 30 acre parcel of land off Nunnawauk Road from consideration to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting.  The location, owned by the State of Connecticut, was adjacent to the Potatuck Club.  The private membership only club activities include on-site include fishing and hunting.


During a site visit Tuesday, Potatuck Club Manager Bruce Clark guided the Commission through the property and explained the different components of the membership, one of which included skeet shooting and hunting on the grounds.  While the parcel fit many of the Commission’s criteria from its initial Information Gathering Stage, Commissioner Chairman Kyle Lyddy says the audible impact of hunting and skeet shooting so close to the location was a major concern.


Clark did an auditory test in the skeet-shooting field to help the Commission understand the impact at the memorial location.  While members were at the approximate location of where a memorial could go, faint shots were heard through the heavily wooded area.  Lyddy says those shots will become more audible during the fall and winter months.


Lyddy says it's possible, specifically during hunting season, that at any location in Newtown there may be an audible sound of gunfire, but the frequency, because of how close this was to the club, is inconsistent with what the Commission is looking to do.


Lyddy said the sound of gun shots, albeit legally, while visiting a memorial to honor individuals murdered is simply inappropriate.


The Commission thanked Clark for his time and efforts to help them.  They also thanked the Newtown Land Use Office and George Benson for their consistent support.


The town of Newtown is one of the largest, acreage wise, in the state.  The commission is working its way through more than a dozen potential sites.  Among other things, the group wants a location that is relatively secluded and would be a destination, not something townspeople would have to drive by every day. It also wants a site that is not too close to the new Sandy Hook Elementary School and has no environmental issues.


The next site visit will be to SAC Field on Riverside Road in Sandy Hook to understand the feasibility of those 6 acres for a memorial.  There have been previous legal questions on the parcel.  The first proposed site, at Fairfield Hills, was rejected because it is considered open space and conservationists opposed building anything there.


Lyddy says they may not find a site with everything on their list and need to pick a location that makes sense for as many people as possible.  He hopes the community community can rally with them and continue to be patient as the group moves through the delicate work.


Once the site selection is complete, the Commission will then work through the Design Selection process.


This month marks three years that the Commission has been appointed by the Newtown Board of Selectmen.  There is no timetable for the memorial's completion, noting a memorial to the victims of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado took almost a decade to complete. That memorial opened in 2007.

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Rich Valdes

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