Tarboo Ridge Coalition: County gun range measure violates state law

PORT TOWNSEND — The Tarboo Ridge Coalition has filed a lawsuit with the Growth Management Hearings Board, alleging Jefferson County violated state law when it passed its gun range ordinances last year.

In a brief filed last week the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, which has opposed Joe D’Amico’s proposed 40-acre shooting range near Tarboo Lake, claims that the “health and safety” ordinance approved Nov. 2 by the Board of County Commissioners actually was a development regulation that modifies land use permitting and that it was approved without any environmental review in violation of the State Environmental Policy Act.

“The Coalition objects to the County allowing unlimited sized, private, for-profit gun ranges capable of covert training of military units and opening up 76% of the land in unincorporated Jefferson County to such facilities,” Peter Newland of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition said in a press release.

The county plans to file its prehearing brief on April 22 and the Growth Management Hearings Board will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. June 11 at the Jefferson County Courthouse. A final decision is due by July 17.

“We don’t agree with their position that the Title 8 ordinance is a development regulation,” said Chief Civil Prosecuting Attorney Philip Hunsucker. “The record is pretty clear that we passed that ordinance as a health and safety [ordinance].”

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition first filed a petition for review in December and then filed a second petition for review in January.

The TRC claims that the Title 8 and Title 18 ordinances approved by Jefferson County allow a land use that is inconsistent with, and fails to implement, the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan.

The Tarboo Ridge says in its brief that the issue started in November 2017, when Fort Discovery — owned by D’Amico — filed pre-application papers for the proposed Cedar Hills Recreational Facility.

“The proposed facility would feature police and military unit training, helicopter landing pads, multiple gun rangers and an RV campground and cabins to accommodate overnight stays by guests,” according to the prehearing brief.

“TRC began marshalling resources and evidence for an appeal to the Jefferson County Hearing Examiner in the event Fort Discovery’s conditional use permit was approved.”

On Dec. 18 the county adopted a one-year moratorium on new commercial shooting facilities in unincorporated Jefferson County.

That led to nearly a year of hearings and the adoption of two ordinances.

The Title 8 ordinance requires physical security, that projectiles must be contained and that critical areas must be protected from adverse impacts.

The TRC objects to the definition of “commercial shooting facility” which says facilities would be “open to organizations training for law enforcement officers or organizational training for members of the armed forces.”

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition raises the issue that if Title 8 ordinance is indeed development regulations, then it should have gone through the State Environmental Policy Act process.

The county believes that ordinance is exempt from SEPA review, but the county did conduct environmental review for the Title 18 ordinance.

The Title 18 ordinance was approved after a recommendation by the county planning commission and a determination of non significance under the State Environmental Policy Act, Hunsucker said.

Fort Discovery filed in December an anti-harassment order against Teri Hein for allegedly sending drones onto the property, something Hein denies, and has filed a lawsuit claiming “aerial trespass” against the Tarboo Ridge Coalition.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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