PORT TOWNSEND — Some 400 people are expected at a public hearing Monday on a draft ordinance regulating commercial shooting ranges, a document that has been described as “well-balanced” while others say it needs more work.
The draft proposes Jefferson County regulations for existing and new facilities, including noise regulations and where shooting facilities can be sited. It does not address indoor shooting ranges.
Commissioners will take testimony from the public on the proposed Commercial Shooting Facilities Ordinance at 6:30 p.m. in the Superior Court courtroom of the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St. Each speaker will have three minutes to comment.
In addition, written testimony will be accepted if received by 4:30 p.m. Friday. Correspondence can be addressed to BOCC, P.O. Box 1220, Port Townsend, WA 98368 or sent via email to [email protected]
Jefferson County commissioners have in effect now a moratorium on shooting ranges because of concerns about such ranges in areas with increasing population.
The action was taken in December after Joe D’Amico, owner of the former Fort Discovery at Discovery Bay and of Security Services Northwest Inc., proposed a shooting and archery range on 40 acres near Tarboo Lake, a few miles from Quilcene. County officials have said the moratorium was in response to public concerns about shooting ranges in general, and was not limited to D’Amico’s proposed facility, the Cedar Hills Recreational Facility.
The review committee that produced the document represented a variety of interests, and included D’Amico; a representative of an existing shooting range, the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association Shooting Range in Port Townsend; and a representative of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, formed in opposition to Cedar Hills. The group met 15 times and toured the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association range.
”The effort thus far is a good start but fails to meet the goals outlined in the Moratorium Ordinance,” according to the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, which has submitted written comment to commissioners.
“The draft ordinance needs to be strengthened to protect people, places and property,” said the legal firm representing the group, Bricklin & Newman LLP of Seattle.
Said D’Amico: “We created a well-balanced document from various pro-and anti-range people that we can work with. I sat on this committee and we had a process. We took our expertise and worked together and moved a document forward that was agreeable.
“Now that it’s done, there are opposing groups that are not happy with the document and are questioning the work,” he continued. “They have a document with 46 pages of items they are opposed to. They don’t want law enforcement training, no shooting at night, a 500-foot setback from water, and posting of a $100,000 bond.”
The Tarboo Ridge Coalition suggests 12 “essential” changes to the draft ordinance — no outdoor night shooting, a limit on the number of firing points; no aircraft, no overnight accommodations, environmental testing for copper, environmental testing to establish pre-operation baseline, consequences for permit violations, improved permit procedures, nuisances noise defined and prohibited, whistleblower protection, retention of existing no-shooting areas and military and law enforcement certifications.
D’Amico is concerned that this will impact his ability to build his business in Jefferson County.
“The Second Amendment is as important as free speech,” he said. “This is probably going to be national news. You can’t put in these types of restrictions.”
The draft ordinance, which uses a Kitsap ordinance as a baseline,was presented to the commissioners on Aug. 27. A public hearing originally was set for Sept. 24 but was delayed because legal notice was not published in a timely manner, which was attributed to The Port Townsend Leader.
Julia Towne, secretary of the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association, said the ordinance as it stands now would make it difficult for the 50-year facility to stay in business.
“If this ordinance is passed, it will mean we will have to hire range safety officers, do a yearly survey and inspections. We are a member-based organization of about 700 people and we won’t be able to afford to stay in business if some of those things are passed.”
Towne said the 40-acre facility, open to members, is the only range that offers archery, shotgun, pistol, rifle and skeet shooting. She said that in addition to law enforcement, 4-H, historic riflemen, and junior riflemen clubs use the facility.
“If this place was not available, people would be out at slab camps,” Towne continued. “Anything goes there. People shoot at the end of dirt roads, in the woods for practice. They shoot up dumped washing machines and TVs in Hidden Valley. It isn’t safe and there’s no joking around about it.”
Allen Streeter, a club member from Sequim, was at the pistol range taking target practice Thursday.
“There are great benefits here. There isn’t just anything in Sequim for the sportsman shooter.”
The Tarboo Ridge Coalition says that the changes it suggests would strengthen environmental protection though water and soil testing and improve safety through limits on the intensity of shooting.
“The county’s draft does not address the changes to the land use code that will be necessary, thus forcing the county to under another round of regulation in the near future,” the group said.
The review committee has nine members — J.Thomas Richardson, District 1; Janet Welch, District 2; Riley Parker, District 3 and Tarboo Ridge Coalition member; D’Amico, at large member; John Minor, representing the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association Shooting Range; Tim Cullinan, Point No Point Treaty Council tribal representative; Art Frank, undersheriff, sheriff’s designee; Stuart Whitford, Environmental Health director; and Mark McCauley, Central Services director, Community Development Department’s designee and chair.
Also serving are ex-officio members Philip Hunsucker, chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney, prosecuting attorney’s designee; and Clark Vargas, C. Vargas & Associates, LTD, consultant; and Michelle Farfan, Department of Community Development, as a staff resource.
To read the draft ordinance document, see https://tinyurl.com/PDN-draftshootingfacilitieslaw.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]