Panel sides with Tarboo Lake Coalition on gun range ordinances

Growth Management Hearings Board decides Jefferson County violated law

PORT TOWNSEND — The state Growth Management Hearings Board has sided with the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, deciding that Jefferson County did not follow state laws when it enacted Title 8 and Title 18 of the county code on commercial shooting facilities.

The board heard testimony from the coalition and from the county — represented by Philip Hunsucker, Jefferson County chief civil prosecuting attorney — on June 11 regarding the county’s adoption of Title 8 and Title 18 in regard to gun ranges and announced the decision Monday.

A 22-page document was released Monday describing the board’s decision and process.

The 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 governmental decisions have.

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 board gave the county a deadline schedule to bring Title 8 and Title 18 into compliance with its regulations:

• March 2, 2020: Compliance due

• March 16, 2020: Compliance report/statement of actions taken to comply and index to compliance record

• March 30, 2020: Objections to a finding of compliance

• April 7, 2020: Response to objections

• April 14, 2020: Telephonic compliance hearing

The board also declared that the county must address specific portions of the ordinances, which currently allow for multiple commercial shooting facilities on the same property when only one was allowed previously, and allow police and military training to be conducted when previously only recreational and tourist use was permitted. The board also said the county abandoned the previous requirement that the facilities be for small-scale uses only.

The initial petitions for change were submitted in December 2018 and January 2019. After which, the board held the requisite pre-hearings, briefs, filings and eventual hearing in June.

The decision is in regard to all potential commercial gun ranges in the county, not just the proposed 40-acre facility that Joe D’Amico is trying to build near Tarboo Lake.

The Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association is not affected by this hearing or ordinance changes.

In a press release, the Tarboo Ridge Coalition said it is glad to be working with the county on the changes.

“TRC is grateful for the opportunity to start over and is dedicated to keep working with all of you for a sensible and fair ordinance that includes specific siting criteria with bright line rules about the location, size and intensity of new gun facilities,” the coalition said in the release.

Hunsucker was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Board decision on Tarboo Ridge by Laura Foster on Scribd

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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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