CHIMACUM — Community members spent almost two hours voicing their concerns about the impact a proposed shooting facility near Tarboo Lake could have upon the environment, their businesses and their way of life.
The Jefferson County Planning Commission accepted public testimony on proposed amendments to Jefferson County Code (JCC) Title 18 relating to shooting facilities during the meeting at the Chimacum High School auditorium Wednesday night.
Written comment will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16. Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to Jefferson County DCD, 621 Sheridan St., Port Townsend, WA 98368. Commenters are asked to include ZON18-00036 in the subject line of correspondence submitted on this topic.
Comments will be reviewed by the planning commission and they will take the community’s input into consideration when proposing amendments of Title 18. The final draft will go to the county commissioners for final approval.
Philip Hunsucker, chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney, highlighted potential loopholes in county code dealing with land use and the lack of definitions for specific terminology.
He said that staff members recommend that those potential loopholes be fixed, that the draft Title 18 parallel ordinance is meant to “harmonize” with the Commercial Shooting Facility Ordinance adopted by the Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 2. which specifically amended Title 8— the health and safety code.
A yearlong moratorium on new commercial shooting facilities was put into place Dec. 17 after Joe D’Amico, owner of Security Services Northwest, proposed a new gun range and training facility: the Cedar Hills Recreational Facility.
He said the facility on 40 acres near Tarboo Lake would incorporate his buildings from the former Fort Discovery training facility in Gardiner and train local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, private citizens and diplomats.
Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve the ordinance under Title 8 of the county code, which addresses health and safety, Kathleen Kler and David Sullivan voted in favor of the ordinance while Kate Dean voted against it, arguing it needed more “guardrails” to protect residents around shooting ranges.
Aaron Door of Tarboo Ridge, one of 21 people who commented, said his family lives one mile away from the proposed “military zone.”
“We have old growth forest that is magical,” Door said. “The sounds are music.
“I’m outraged that there are sound ordinances for your automobile; you can’t play offensive music. But there is no sound ordinance for guns and ammunition. It’s okay to disrupt the wildlife that makes this area so special because of money? I don’t want any gun range next to me.”
Hunsucker said approval of changes to Title 18 should be done so as to meet the Dec. 17 moratorium expiration. During this time, commercial shooting facilities have been “frozen,” meaning no applications for new facilities re accepted.
As currently written, Title 18 allows shooting ranges for recreational and tourist use in specific areas, but Hunsucker said the language is ambiguous and several key words are not defined.
Currently 18.20.350 of Title 18 authorizes “small-scale outdoor recreation and tourist use in specific land-use districts including commercial forest, rural forest and inland forest zones, some with a conditional use permit.”
Hunsucker said there is a provision for “unnamed uses” and those could include an indoor shooting range.
Outdoor shooting ranges are subject to standards written with terms such as “safe shooting practice” and “specific weaponry and “ammunition” that are not precisely defined.
In one section, 18.20.350 (8)(b), is a reference to the National Rifle Association’s Range Manual, Hunsucker said, “There is no such thing. There is an NRA Source Book but that is not specifically referenced.”
Other deficiencies in the code include a description of an eight-foot high noise barrier, he said. This requirement alone “would not mitigate the noise impacts without understanding the types of weapons or caliber of bullets,” he said.
Peter Newland of Tarboo Bay and member of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition — which was organized in opposition to D’Amico’s facility — said that the Title 8 as it currently written “allows for private-commercial gun ranges of unlimited size, unbounded by the need to be recreational and small scale.
“Title 18 allows for military and law enforcement training which is neither a tourist or recreational use,” Newland said. “Those training needs are currently satisfied by the Jefferson County Sportsmen Association [range]” in Port Townsend.
“Writing an ordinance to suit a bully sets a dangerous precedent,” said Diane Jones of Beckett Point.
“An ordinance that is more permissive than other counties can also attract elements that can change the character of Jefferson County in ways we may not want and cannot reverse,” Jones said.
“Having a commercial shooting facility isn’t essential. Protecting quiet spaces and water supply and air quality are more essential.”
Jim Smith on Old Tarboo Road lives two miles from the proposed Cedar Hills facility.
“I’m a gun owner and a Vietnam Vet and I’m here to say small recreational gun ranges in this county are just fine, if they are indoors or don’t ruin the lives of the neighbors who live in a 3-5 mile radius,” Smith said.
“The area is there for people to recreate and it is unrealistic to think that anyone can recreate with the unrelenting noise of semi-automatic gunfire and helicopters and other environmental impacts that are critical in keeping pollution possibilities away from Tarboo Lake.”
“The absence of frequent loud noises in the daytime is a big part of what defines our county’s rural character,” said Nicole Fox of Eaglemount Road.
A copy of Hunsucker’s presentation may be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y9l5qdpo.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]