Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Shooting range to move? Fort Discovery owner eyes Tarboo area for facility

QUILCENE — A proposed shooting and archery range on 40 acres near Tarboo Lake, if approved for a permit, would become Cedar Hills Recreational Facility, Fort Discovery owner Joe D’Amico said.

Discovery Bay-based company Fort Discovery, Inc. plans to apply for a Type III conditional use permit with the Jefferson County Department of Community Development in November, D’Amico said Saturday.

Fort Discovery purchased two 20-acre parcels for $592,000 from James Norman Worthington on Sept. 25, according to the Jefferson County Assessor.

The training facility at Discovery Bay shut down its operations after 31 years in business about two weeks ago in anticipation of moving to the Tarboo area. Workers have already begun moving equipment to the site, D’Amico said.

Associate planner David Johnson of the Department of Community Development said the proposal was “all conceptual” at this point.

“It could be that we never get an application — I just don’t know,” Johnson said. “We’ll send out a notice as soon as we get an application.”

If the department gets an application and determines it is complete, it will issue a notice of application and allow for a minimum 14-day public comment period.

A public hearing would be held then, and the Jefferson County hearing examiner will approve or deny the application within 10 days.

In the last few months, Johnson said the Department of Community Development has received “about a dozen” emails or letters about the proposed range, with all but one opposed to the facility.

As to D’Amico’s plans if the hearing examiner denies his application, “I haven’t really given it a thought,” he said. “I like to think positive. I like to think the land is zoned for a range. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Training, recreational uses

D’Amico said the seven proposed shooting and archery ranges would comprise 50 percent of the facility’s use.

“Everybody gets wrapped around the axel about shooting, and that’s just 50 percent of it,” he said.

Other uses could include providing security training, emergency services, tent camping, RV use and fishing at Tarboo Lake and acting as an event venue, he said.

The private facility would be by membership, D’Amico said, in order to conduct background checks on applicants. The finer details of what membership might include would be determined upon approval of the facility, D’Amico said.

The facility contains an “essential public facility component,” according to the June 30 preapplication conference notes.

Cedar Hills Recreational Facility would train local, state and federal law enforcement agencies; private citizens; and diplomats who possibly could be held hostage while conducting business overseas, D’Amico said.

The facility also could include two helipad landing areas and act as an access area and emergency service center during a forest fire, according to the preapplication conference notes.

D’Amico said the helipad landing areas could be used in the case of wrecks on U.S. Highway 101 and state Highway 104.

The facility’s recreational uses could include camping and RV use, cabins, caretaker residential housing, a clubhouse, obstacle course, zip line, dock with swimming float and hiking trails, according to the preapplication.

D’Amico envisions weddings, team bonding retreats and business meetings taking place on the site.

He said Fort Discovery also reached out to a movie production company about possibly shooting a television series there.

If the permit is approved, Fort Discovery’s first priority would be a 40-yard small arms range, D’Amico said. Then, all other projects would be phased over three to five years, according to the preapplication conference notes.

Sound, environmental impacts

A completed application for a Type III conditional use permit requires a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review.

Sounds created by the discharge of firearms on authorized shooting ranges are exempt from Washington’s maximum permissible environmental noise levels: 5 dBA for a total of 15 minutes in an hour, 11 dBA for a total of five minutes in an hour and 15 dBA for a total of 1.5 minutes in an hour.

D’Amico said a sound study will be conducted on the property, though a date has not yet been set.

Letters for and against

Two letters addressed to the Jefferson County Commissioners appeared in the department’s file on the proposed facility.

Christine and Stephen Edwards, who identified themselves as Tarboo Valley residents, wrote to oppose the range.

“The proposed gun range will adversely affect our way of life. Sound travels throughout this area. Not only will the noise affect the health of residents but also animals: dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep, etc.

“Anyone with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or similar issues will be adversely affected.

“Property values will decrease. There is no reason why the gun range could not be located near a military base (Fort Lewis, Yakima Firing Range) or any place where there are no residents within sound range.”

Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’klallam Tribe, wrote to express support for both Fort Discovery and the facility.

“Our Tribe supports the concept proposed by Fort Discovery, which encourages and trains the safe handling and discharge of firearms. We firmly believe that there is a need for safe and adequate firearms educational shooting areas in the Jefferson and Clallam counties. The Tarboo Regional Training Facility is an ideal location for such a facility.”

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Reporter Sarah Sharp can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].

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