NEW FRANKLIN  Nearly 80 residents packed New Franklin Council chambers to voice their concerns with a new proposed firearms ordinance.

During the Sept. 18 council meeting, Mayor Paul Adamson presented to the public before allowing them to speak.

Adamson said he commended everyone for showing up to the meeting. He said the proposed ordinance came about following several complaints the city has received about the excessive shooting. Following the complaints, he said he looked at the laws in place and there wasn't anything in place about discharging a firearm in the city.

Adamson said some cities such as Akron, Barberton and Norton have banned all discharging of firearms in the city.

“No one wants to do that out here,” Adamson said.

He said the concern comes with the smaller lots in the city, where properties are close together.

Draft ordinance

The draft states the following is permitted:

- The discharge of any type of firearm by a law enforcement officer.

- The discharge of a rifle, shotgun, handgun or any other firearm does not occur within 250 feet of a public roadway, or within 2,000 feet of an occupied structure not located on the owner's property.

- The discharge of a rifle, shotgun, handgun or any other firearm does not occur, from or over any public road or highway on the property.

- Unless used in hunting in compliance with applicable State of Ohio licensing requirements, the discharge of a rifle, shotgun, handgun or other firearm does not occur prior to one-half hour before sunrise nor after sunset.

The draft ordinance also states no owner or person in control of property shall permit the discharge of more than one firearm of any kind simultaneously. Also, no person shall discharge an automatic firearm of any kind within the city.

Adamson said he drafted the ordinance at the extreme and wanted to work down from there, but that was a mistake. He said New Franklin consists of many rural lots but it also has neighborhoods.

He said he has received calls both ways on the proposed firearms ordinance.

Residents speak

Residents spoke for several hours informing City Council and the mayor that they are opposed to the ordinance. 

Matthew Novak said he has 12.5 acres and shoots on his property, but believes he does so safely. He said none of his neighbors have complained.

Many residents raised concerns about the fact that legislation has written on it “emergency." Council President David Stock explained that is written on every piece of legislation that comes before council. He also stressed the firearms ordinance is only a draft and there is no legislation on the agenda regarding the matter.

Adamson said the intention was never to sneak this through, as he wants to do everything out in the open with public input.

Residents also took issue with the ordinance being called a weapons discharge ordinance and asked the wording be changed to firearms.

Bob Ball, who owns the land where some of the shooting has taken place, addressed the concerns that have come up about his property. He said they never shot more than four hours at a time and have only been there six times since last November.

Ball and his wife, Jeri, said of the four complaints about shooting, two have come from their property. They questioned why the city is considering this ordinance over four complaints.

Adamson said there may be more complaints, but only four have reached his desk.

Ball stressed shooting is done so safely with NRA instructors onsite.

“No one gets to screw around in any way,” Ball said.

Ball said he has tried to have conversations with the neighbors but has been met with opposition from them. He said he also invited all of council and the mayor out to the property to see what has been going on. Several council members said they were never notified of the invitation. Ball said he told councilman David Stock, but Stock said he didn’t pass on the information because he thought Ball had reached out to every member of council.

Ball said he has lived in the community for 50 years and doesn't understand why he is being treated this way. He said he spent $60,000 buying the property and building a mound and he hopes to one day build his dream home.

Ball said he has been accused of running a business on his property, which he says is not the case.

“Each one of you jumped on that bandwagon and whipped that horse as fast as you could to see if you could get to the other end and strangle the life out of me,” Ball said to City Council. “I am outraged at the behavior.”

Councilwoman Judy Jones said she is outraged for being accused of this when she never received a call from Ball. Ball said Stock is his councilman.

Jones, who is an at-large councilperson, said she is his councilperson too.

“I am for the whole community,” Jones said.

Councilman Andrew Fetterman said the law he would like to see would be about backstops. Many residents agreed this is the area the city should focus on.

One resident suggested the city do something different and consider creating a gun range where people can shoot safely.

Adamson and several residents agreed the next step is to form a citizen group of residents to take a deeper look into the issue.

Noise ordinance

Many residents also voiced concerns about the city’s noise ordinance, which was passed in 2005 and amended in June to include truck idling.

Resident Kevin Powell raised concerns about the noise ordinance and that all the city's ordinances need to be put on the city's website. Adamson said that is a project he wants to be done in the future.

Residents said the noise ordinance is written very vaguely and needs to be changed. Adamson said the police will not come out if someone uses their lawnmower or rides their ATV. He said the noise ordinance is designed for those who run gasoline motors excessively. He said if someone is riding for hours and hours, then a neighbor may complain and call the police. The noise ordinance also states between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for these things not to be used.

Residents said excessive needs defined better and some said what may be annoying to one person may not be another person.

City Council intends to look into the 14-year-old noise ordinance.

In other business Sept. 18, City Council:

- Approved to renew the city’s insurance plan. Adamson said since the city switched plans last year the city is saving $300,000 to $400,000.

- Approved an advance from the General Fund to the 2907 COPS School Violence Prevention Fund. This is for a grant Manchester Local Schools received, which has to be run through the city. The city will pay for it now and then be reimbursed through the grant. Manchester was one of three schools in Ohio which received the grant.

- Heard from resident Jennifer Harper about a petition which has been circulating about having the Kungle Road bridge reopened. Heavy rains caused the bridge, which is on the New Franklin and Norton border, to collapse in June. The bridge has been closed since and there has been some talk about installing a cul-de-sac instead of reopening the bridge. Harper said more than 700 people have signed the petition asking for the bridge to be replaced and opened again. She is concerned about the response time for fire and EMS and also has concerns about salt trucks in the winter if the road becomes a cul-de-sac. Adamson said the bridge belongs to Norton and there is a grant application through ODOT being applied for which could help fund the repairs.

- Heard from Adamson about a light that will be installed at the intersection of Center Road and South Main Street to help better illuminate the area.

The next New Franklin Council meeting is set to begin immediately following the committee meetings, which are scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at New Franklin City Hall.