It was a filled room in East Haven for the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, and it was a room that was divided.
"I am not opposed to the sport of simulated battlefields and simulated weapons. I am opposed to the location," said East Haven BOE member Lou Pacelli.
Ares Milsim Battlefield owner Steven Serio, Sr. sat before the P&Z Commission and hoped to create a recreational facility for airsoft and paintball games on 51 acres of land. The cause of concern for many was that the land is next to East Haven High School.
Those against the move expressed concerns for traffic and noise pollution. Supporters argued it wouldn't be an issue.
Both the superintendent and mayor had statements read voicing their objections. The mayor's letter read in part, "There is no debating the fact that in this era of increased violence and social tension, approving an active battlefield facility near our town's flagship educational facility sends the wrong message at the absolute wrong time."
On the other side of the debate, some neighbors as well as students at the high school saw the facility as a positive.
"Without a doubt, no other sport has taught me teamwork, leadership, and courage like airsoft has," said East Haven High School student Joseph Milano.
"I don't think there's any way the sound is going to affect us," said neighbor Joseph Ryan.
In the end what it came down to was regulations. The commission pointed out that airsoft and paintball activities must be kept 1,000 feet away from school zones. The commission said the owner was using a topographical map when he should have been looking at line-of-sight, which gives a distance of only 500 feet. The owner argued that the key for the scale of map the commission was using was incorrect, but the commission dismissed that argument and his application.
"My next step is to never do business in this town," said Serio. “My maps were absolutely accurate. We measured them. They were done by an architectural firm."
Serio's uncle says airsoft and paintball facilities have already been approved in Branford and North Branford, so that's where they'll do business.