PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Democrats have submitted a resolution to the Jefferson Board of County Commissioners asking for “clear regulations for commercial gun ranges.”
The resolution comes after the state Growth Management Hearings Board sided with the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, determining that it has jurisdiction over gun range ordinances 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 requirements the resolution asks commissioners to consider are:
• Abide by the decision of the state Growth Management Hearings Board.
• Abandon the expense of an appeal to Superior Court of the board’s decision.
• Request, as necessary, more time to work with the community and the county Planning Commission in facilitated community meetings to scope legal and enforceable regulations.
• Include countywide citizen involvement in the development process.
• Develop a new ordinance or ordinances that conform with the individual right to bear arms.
• Define clearly what constitutes a commercial shooting facility.
• Conform the ordinances to all applicable Washington state and federal laws and include requirements for a full review under the State Environmental Policy Act.
• Require an operating permit.
• Place clear and concise “bright line” limits on the location, size, intensity and operating hours of commercial shooting facilities.
• Include enforcement provisions and adequate safety measures.
“We want the board to take a step back and do this right,” said Marty Gilmore, chair of the Jefferson County Democrats.
“They have a few options, but we want them to take a more deliberate approach and a more open community oriented approach than they have taken in the past.
“We want them to not fight the decision of the Growth Management Board. We do not want them to appeal it.”
Initially the Jefferson County Democrats wanted to stay out of the dispute between the coalition and the county, but decided to unanimously pass the resolution during their Oct. 17 meeting, now that the state board sided with the coalition, Gilmore said.
“The [coalition] has been leading the charge,” Gilmore said. “We were reluctant to get involved, but now that it’s back, we are.”
At this time there is no concrete decision by the commissioners to attempt to appeal the decision, Kate Dean, commission chair, said.
“It has been discussed, but no decision has been made,” Dean said.
The commissioners and the planning commission are facing tight deadlines due to the state board decision and also finalizing the Critical Area Ordinances, which may have an impact on the Tri-Area Sewer Project, Dean said.
“The timeframe is unfortunate,” Dean said. “We really want to keep those moving.”
Dean supports having “bright line” regulations, but she said the commission has a difficult job defining them, as the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned similar ordinances on land use and zoning to limit gun ranges in Chicago and other areas.
“I did not support the last set of ordinances, so I am glad to have the opportunity to do it again and do it better” Dean said. “But we also have to be smart about using county resources in a way that isn’t going to put us into legal battles for years to come.”
John Cooke, chair of the Jefferson County Republicans, doesn’t fault the current commissioners with the issues they face regarding the ordinances.
“About 10 years ago, this problem came up and [those commissioners] decided their only regulation was to move [gun ranges] to a more rural area,” Cooke said. “Now, somebody has bought land and wants to put one up.
Joe D’Amico has proposed a 40-acre shooting range near Tarboo Lake.
“They should’ve made more regulations back then. … It’s really laid at the feet of the past commissioners to the problem.”
The full resolution that was drafted by the Jefferson County Democrats can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-BOCCresolution.
Gilmore will be reading it during the public comment period of the commissioners’ Monday meeting between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Chambers of the Jefferson County Courthouse at 1820 Jefferson St.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].