One of the surprises coming out of the ongoing controversy over the Maidstone Gun Club land lease from East Hampton Town is what else has gone on there other than shooting and gun education. A parallel example of this kind of expansive private use of public property in the town does not immediately come to mind.
According to members, a clubhouse there is a social hub, too. Several of the amenities appear to be unrelated to the facility’s purpose as a recreational shooting range and training site for law enforcement. In a recent letter to the East Hampton Town Board, a club member said it also was where members can “gather on the porch or in the lounge and discuss matters of common interest . . . or a game of Ping-Pong or billiards” and an “extraordinary place to get free do-it-yourself home repair guidance. . . .” This is lovely, but does it belong?
For safety reasons, the public at large is not allowed onto the property, other than as guests of a member. For shooting this makes sense, but to shoot pool seems another matter. The only similar uses to which town property may seem to have been put come from the nearby airport, where aircraft-hangar tenants have done things such as host a short-term art gallery or store classic cars.
Several critics of the lease have pointed out the absence of staff at the club to manage its operation. As nice as it might be for a handful of participants, the mission creep evidenced by the members and guests-only lounge, Ping-Pong, and billiards adds credence to the charge that its operation, if its lease is eventually renewed, will require greater oversight, as well as a clear definition of what can and cannot take place there.