PORT TOWNSEND — Joe D’Amico told Jefferson County commissioners Tuesday he is moving full steam ahead on his proposed shooting and archery range near Tarboo Lake, despite the yearlong moratorium county commissioners imposed on shooting ranges last month.
He has already moved his buildings from the former Fort Discovery training facility in Gardiner to the new site and started drilling his well Tuesday, he said.
“There’s no moratorium on that, so we’re going to go forward on that,” he said, referring to the well.
“We’re just going to continue to install recreational ranges, continue to get permits for our buildings … [and do] what’s currently allowed under code,” D’Amico said after the meeting. D’Amico also owns Security Services Northwest of Sequim.
Commissioner Kathleen Kler said after public comment she was surprised to learn D’Amico had already moved the buildings.
“I think we were a bit surprised … because we were waiting for some moving permits,” she said. “I’m not sure how that happened.”
D’Amico said the buildings from Fort Discovery were each taken apart before being moved to the new site, meaning he didn’t need moving permits. Had they been oversized loads he would have needed permits, he said.
Jefferson County Community Development Director Patty Charnas did not respond to a phone call requesting comment Tuesday.
Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
D’Amico told commissioners that they had made a mistake when they imposed a moratorium on new gun ranges. In a unanimous decision Dec. 18, commissioners imposed a maximum yearlong moratorium on permitting new commercial ranges after a three-hour executive session.
D’Amico didn’t say what his plans were, but said all options are on the table.
Peter Newland, representing the Tarboo Ridge Coalition — a group of homeowners who oppose the proposed shooting range — told county commissioners they made the right decision.
“In unanimously passing the ordinance, you wisely established a necessary, fair and thoughtful process to assess the impacts of shooting ranges on public safety, the environment, land use compatibility, and existing Jefferson County businesses and infrastructure,” Newland said.
Commissioner David Sullivan said that the purpose of issuing the moratorium is so that the county can strike a balance between different interests.
“We want to encourage safe shooting,” he said. “It’s an issue of finding some balance for this level of land use that is really different than private shooting on your own private property.”
Commissioners rescheduled and moved the Feb. 5 public hearing about the moratorium in hopes of making it possible for more people to attend.
It is now set for 6 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Jefferson County Superior Court courtroom, 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend.
Commissioner Kate Dean said she was concerned that if the meeting were held in the commissioners’ chambers — where meetings are already often well attended — there would not be enough room for everyone who wanted to attend.
She was also concerned that having the hearing at 10 a.m., as it was originally scheduled, would prevent many working people from attending.
D’Amico said rescheduling the hearing was the right move.
“That’s really important for the working people of both Jefferson and Clallam counties who may want to come voice their opinions on this,” he said. “This will allow more people to speak.”
He called the moratorium a Second Amendment issue and said he knows plenty of people will want to speak.
“It’s a constitutional issue,” he said. “It’s No. 2. It’s like putting a moratorium on free speech.”
After public comment, Dean said land use issues are one of the top concerns of county government, which is why she voted in favor of the moratorium.
She said county code is “virtually silent on the issue of gun ranges.”
“My desire to push the pause button is to say how can we ensure that the many values in the community are included in land uses,” she said. “I hope that we will enter into a process in good faith with many different stakeholders and come to some resolution in what is the proper placement of gun ranges.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].