Jefferson County commissioners enact shooting range moratorium

Public hearing to be conducted within 60 days

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Board of County Commissioners has enacted a six-month moratorium on all shooting facility permit applications and referred Title 8 and 18 ordinances to the Planning Commission for revision.

The decision was made Monday afternoon, after an executive session that commission Chair Kate Dean said lasted five hours.

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

The Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association is not affected by the moratorium or ordinance changes, as they are for new shooting facilities.

The moratorium is effective immediately and it temporarily halts “the submission, acceptance, processing or approval of any Jefferson County permit applications for any proposed use, development, proposal or project for the siting, construction or modification of any commercial shooting facility.”

A public hearing regarding the moratorium will be conducted within the next 60 days, consistent with state law.

The commission plans to file a motion of reconsideration with the board to have them re-evaluate the decision of invalidating the two ordinances.

“The Board of County Commissioners recognizes that our old land use code failed to regulate large-scale commercial shooting facilities, and the Title 18 ordinance we adopted in 2018 closed the gap,” said David Sullivan, district 2 commissioner.

“The separate law we adopted in Title 8 set uniform operating guidelines for all existing and future commercial shooting facilities that were important to protect public health and safety.”

The reconsideration is for a procedural difference of opinion that could possibly change the outcome, without having to file an appeal, Dean said.

“We disagree with some of the analysis or rationale that they used,” Dean said.

The commission is referring the two ordinances to the Planning Commission to be revised in the meantime, and is following the procedures set by the board, as the reconsideration decision and possible appeal in court would not stay the effect of the current decision.

“We hope to build on the good work we’ve already done and make the necessary changes,” Dean said. “I actually voted against the ordinances. I want to see more bright line regulations on the ordinances.”

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.

Peter Newland, Tarboo Ridge Coalition legal committee chair and former board president, agreed that the moratorium is necessary.

“We’re fine with the moratorium,” Newland said. “It’s a pretty aggressive schedule that’s been outlined. It’s a pretty broad, county-wide issue. Yeah, it started in Tarboo, but it’s broadened across the county.

“We think there needs to be clear and enforceable bright line policies,” he continued. “This is a do-over, and we’re hoping to get it right this time.”

Once the commissioners receive the recommendations from the Planning Commission, they will likely hold a public hearing regarding the modified ordinances in early February before deliberating and adopting the amended shooting facility ordinances to meet the March 2, 2020, deadline that the board set for them.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].

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