PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Board of County Commissioners approved two ordinances that repeal and replace two current ordinances and limit future shooting ranges to being indoors only.
The commissioners unanimously passed the ordinances for Health and Safety (Title 8) and the Unified Development Code (Title 18) during their Monday meeting.
The commissioners and staff started discussions at 10:15 a.m., had a break from noon to 1:30 p.m. and made the final decision at nearly 4:30 p.m.
The revision of the ordinances was in response to the state Growth Management Hearings Board siding with the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, which has opposed the Cedar Hills Recreational Facility — a proposed 40-acre multi-purpose shooting range near Tarboo Ridge overseen by Joe D’Amico.
The hearings board ruled Sept. 16 that county ordinances Title 8 and Title 18 did not follow state law in regard to commercial shooting facilities.
The hearings board determined it has jurisdiction over Title 8 and Title 18 — classifying them as land ordinances and deeming them invalid — and that the county failed to conduct a State Environmental Policy Act review for Title 8, in violation of state law RCW 43.21C.030.
The county commissioners referred the ordinances to the county planning commission for review. The planning commissioners conducted their own public hearing Nov. 5, and then presented their recommendations for the revised ordinances to the commissioners on Dec. 9 with the suggestion that future shooting ranges in the county be indoors only.
The Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association — which is the only active outdoor range in Jefferson, Clallam and Kitsap counties — will still be able to operate, as it has a 20 year operating agreement with the county.
There were four other options that county staff presented to the commissioners, but they chose to stay with the majority of the planning commission’s changes, with several specific wording changes.
A main focus of the revisions was making it clear that Title 8 could not be considered a land use ordinance and is for regulation for health and safety only, officials said.
“Our goal is to have clear language in this code,” District 1 Commissioner Kate Dean said of Title 18.
While the ordinances do not allow for commercial outdoor ranges, outdoor shooting on private property that isn’t in a no-shooting area, and target shooting on approved National Forest Service land and Department of Natural Resource land are still allowed, except where already closed to target shooting for public safety, the ordinances state.
One of the defining features of a shooting range being determined as commercial is users being required to pay a fee to use it and that it sees regular heavy use, verses sporadic shooting, the ordinances state.
The hearings board required the commissioners to have compliance by March 2 and now the commissioners will have a compliance hearing on April 14.
At the same meeting, the commissioners also approved an extension to the shooting range moratorium to halt permits on shooting ranges until the hearings board makes its final decision or until Sept. 23, whichever comes first.
The full ordinances can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-shootingrangeordinances.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].