Lela Hilton presents a petition by the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, which was said to be signed by over 1,000 people asking for “bright line” regulations in regard to shooting ordinances. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

Lela Hilton presents a petition by the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, which was said to be signed by over 1,000 people asking for “bright line” regulations in regard to shooting ordinances. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

Packed hearing on laws related to shooting facilities

More than 30 speak to planning panel

CHIMACUM — The Jefferson County Planning Commission heard from more than 30 people during a public hearing that drew more than 200 people to discuss Title 8 and Title 18 ordinances of the Jefferson County Code in regard to commercial shooting facilities.

The commission conducted the public hearing Tuesday at the Chimacum High School Auditorium. Written comment can be submitted until 4:30 p.m. today. Comments on the proposals may be emailed to the Jefferson County Planning Commission at plancomm@co.jefferson.wa.us. Include “ZON18-00036” in the subject line of all email comments submitted on this topic.

The hearing was in response to the Sept. 16 decision made by the Growth Management Hearings Board siding with the Tarboo Ridge Coalition (TRC), which has opposed Joe D’Amico’s proposed 40-acre shooting range near Tarboo Lake, deeming that the two ordinances did not follow state law in regard to commercial shooting facilities.

The Jefferson Board of County Commissioners referred the two ordinances to the Planning Commission for review before the board addresses them again.

Sheriff’s deputies attended the meeting; Jefferson County administrator Philip Morley said there were concerns about the public safety going into the meeting.

“We just wanted to make sure folks would feel safe,” Morley said.

The public comment hearing was a back-and-forth between people asking for more “bright line” regulations to be added to the code, specifically for new gun ranges, and others wanting to guarantee that the Jefferson County Sportsman’s Association (JCSA) would not be adversely affected by the changes to the code.

The JCSA has a license agreement with the county that allows it to operate until 2040 before the negotiation would be reviewed. However the shooting facility does fall under Title 8 as part of that agreement, which was the cause for concern from members of the club and the community.

“The Sportsman’s Association would adhere to the Title 8 ordinance as it was adopted last year,” Morely said. “That is now part of the license agreement and that license agreement is in effect all the way until December of 2040.

“As an existing commercial shooting facility, if Title 8 gets amended in such a way that it may be more stringent than the existing Title 8 — which I don’t think is currently on the table — the sportsman’s association would also need to comply with those revisions,” he added.

During public comment, the Jefferson County Democrats presented a resolution they created and passed urging for “clear regulations for commercial gun ranges.”

The TRC provided the commission with a petition, reportedly signed by 1,227 residents of Jefferson County, asking for six “bright line” regulations of shooting facilities.

The regulations were no military training, no aircraft, 500-yard setbacks from public lakes, no night shooting, eight-foot-tall security fencing and 16-foot-tall sound barriers

“Currently [the draft ordinances] reduce the total area available for development of shooting ranges from 76 percent of unincorporated Jefferson County to a total of 150 acres,” said Scott Freeman, TRC board president, “and for purposing that shooting facilities be permitted to small scale and tourist uses.

“Now I urge you to set bright line rules to define what small scale tourist use really means so that we can avoid looking at these definitions again in the future.”

Members of JCSA encouraged the commissioners to limit how much oversight is forced onto the facility, saying they feel it is unwarranted since they have reportedly had no issues with safety or non-compliance with the county.

The concerns raised by the JCSA were in regard to some of the demands of being raised by the TRC and the Democrats. They said that some of the required regulations, such as the sound barriers, were not financially feasible for the organization and were felt to be an unnecessary burden.

Rick Nelson is a long-time member of JCSA, after he joined because his property near Ocean Grove was declared a no-shooting zone.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that the JCSA was established in 1962,” Nelson said. “The range has had an excellent safety record for over 50 years.

“I’m not here to make threats, but simply to warn the rest of residents of Jefferson County if the JCSA range was shut down, I would have no other option but to go back to shooting on my property.”

The Growth Management 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 (SEPA) review for Title 8, in violation of state law RCW 43.21C.030.

The SEPA review analyzes the environmental impact of governmental decisions.

Not conducting a SEPA review is not automatic grounds for the board to declare invalidity, but because Title 8 directly conflicts with the board’s goals of protecting the environment, the board decided the county must redress that part of Title 8 and bring its code into compliance with state and board regulations.

The commissioner did not discuss their thoughts of the ordinances at the special meeting Tuesday, but will deliberate on them at their Nov. 13 and Nov. 20 meetings, both starting at 5:30 at the Tri-Area Community Center at 10 W. Valley Road.

The full audio recording of the meeting can be found online. Select the 2019 folder and then the 11-05-2019 audio file.

________

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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