PORT TOWNSEND — A final draft of the proposed Jefferson County commercial shooting facility ordinance proposes regulations for existing and new facilities, including noise regulations and where shooting facilities can be sited.
The draft, presented to the county commissioners Monday by the Commercial Shooting Facility Ordinance Review Committee, does not address indoor shooting ranges.
The Commercial Shooting Facility Ordinance Review Committee met 15 times for a total of 45 hours, which included a tour of the Sportsmen’s Association Shooting Range.
Topics discussed during the sessions included impacts on treaty rights, water quality, wetlands and critical areas; health and safety; property values; jobs; increased tax base; need for increased code enforcement; tourism; public health and safety including lead exposure and noise; and quality of life.
Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Philip Hunsucker said the document is “not perfect, but balances many interests.”
“As an ordinance, it addresses recreational facilities where people will do shooting in a commercial facility where people pay to use it,” Hunsucker said.
“Our focus is not on the shooting per se, it is on the safety and protection of the people doing the shooting, and the people, animals and property that are in and around the facility.”
Commissioner David Sullivan commented about noise and said, “it wasn’t like a logging operation that may create a lot of noise for a couple months and then they are gone. This is going to be going on every day.”
Hunsucker said that the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires consideration of environmental issues and the possibility of an environmental impact statement.
For example, the SEPA checklist includes noise and how it will be mitigated.
Hunsucker said whomever is following the rules may use the facility.
He said that by its nature, law enforcement, military and paramilitary don’t fit under the “recreational use” umbrella, but the county has legal non-conforming use language that would allow it.
The draft ordinance relies on existing Jefferson County code regarding land use and nuisance, but also offers recommendations for possible changes to noise and land use regulations.
“It is in the public interest to protect and preserve the continued vitality of commercial shooting facilities in Jefferson County in the face of increasing population pressure and density of conflicting land uses,”said Central Services Director Mark McCauley, who served as the committee chair.
Hunsucker said the draft ordinance is designed to withstand a legal challenge.
“It is not directly regulating any particular facility, person or project, despite the claims of some and the hopes of others, and it relies on the substantial health and safety powers as the basis for the ordinance, as Kitsap County did in its successful defense of its own shooting range ordinance,” Hunsucker said.
“We haven’t started the legislative process yet. There will be an opportunity to consider and deliberate, there will be public comment and testimony and this [document] could change.”
“In the past, we’ve gone to a hearing and we’ve made changes based on one comment from one person that was legal, affordable, practical and made sense. One person changed a line in an ordinance. Minds are still open.”
The current moratorium on commercial shooting facilities ends Dec. 17 regardless of whether the planning commission has completed its review of the proposed ordinance. The moratorium period can be extended.
Commissioner Kathleen Kler noted that the next few months are tightly packed with work on the comprehensive plan, critical areas ordinance and other issues for review.
A future commission meeting will determine the next steps for moving the proposed ordinance along to the planning commission and public hearings throughout the next several months.
All review committee meetings were recorded and are available at the AV Capture All site at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Capture. Committee members received training and were certified in the Open Public Meetings Act.
The review committee included: J.Thomas Richardson, District 1; Janet Welch, District 2; Riley Parker, District 3 and Tarboo Ridge Coalition member; Joe D’Amico, at large member representing Fort Discovery Inc. and Security Services Northwest Inc.; John Minor, representing the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association Shooting Range, the existing commercial shooting facility; Tim Cullinan, Point No Point Treaty Council tribal representative, Art Frank, undersheriff, sheriff’s designee; Stuart Whitford, Environmental Health director; Mark McCauley, Central Services director, Community Development Department’s designee and chair; Philip Hunsucker, chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney, prosecuting attorney’s designee; Clark Vargas, C. Vargas & Associates, LTD, consultant; and Michelle Farfan, Department of Community Development, staff resource.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]