New County Ordinance Opens Jefferson County Commercial Forests to For-profit Military and Paramilitary Training

November 3, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On Friday November 2, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance that opens commercial forest in Jefferson County to large-scale, for-profit military and paramilitary training.

Because the ordinance contains no restrictions on the scale or types of shooting or tactical training that is allowed, Jefferson County will likely become a magnet for outdoor gun range development. Ranges could be hundreds of acres in size. Helicopters and other aircraft are permitted as is shooting at night.

In effect, the County could be trading an economy based on agriculture, forestry and tourism to one focused on commercial operations that host military and paramilitary training.

The ordinance was the culmination of a year-long moratorium on siting gun ranges that was approved by the County Commissioners in December of 2017. Even though the ordinance that established the moratorium expressly stated that recent regulations passed by Kitsap County should serve as a model, the new Jefferson County ordinance is much less restrictive. The Jefferson County rules allow gun range development along public lakes and streams. In addition, it permits any type of training desired by military or paramilitary groups. Overnight accommodations are allowed, making long-term, high-intensity training programs permissible.

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition (TRC) wanted the ordinance to protect the citizens of Jefferson County, our forest economy and the environment. They advocated for maximizing public safety and minimizing the impact of lead, copper, and noise pollution. The new ordinance fails to address the dangers posed to the public and wildlife by copper pollution. The new ordinance also ignores concerns raised by the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association, a 700-member non-profit that had lobbied for measures that would help their facility meet the design changes mandated in the new law.

TRC favors indoor gun ranges and opposes outdoor gun ranges that are located near lakes and other public recreation areas, or that are large-scale and designed for military or paramilitary training. Although the Commissioners received hundreds of written comments and heard over 6 hours of testimony, that public input was not reflected in the ordinance.

“While the Tarboo Ridge Coalition is very disappointed that the BOCC adopted this flawed ordinance, we are in no way less determined to use every available resource to prevent the establishment of any military/ paramilitary training center on the shores of Tarboo Lake or any place else in Jefferson County,” said Jim Smith, a Tarboo Ridge Coalition member.

Joe D’Amico Ignores Jefferson County Moratorium Ordinance

A moratorium ordinance, unanimously passed on December 18, 2017 by the Jefferson County BOCC, prohibits the “the submission, acceptance, processing or approval of any Jefferson County permit applications for any proposed use, development, or project for siting, construction or modification of any commercial shooting facility…. during the moratorium”. The moratorium expires December 17, 2018.

Joe D’Amico wants to build a multi-range shooting compound at Tarboo Lake. He has chosen to ignore the County ordinance and submitted a permit application on October 3, 2018–fully 75 days in advance of the moratorium’s scheduled expiration.

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition, a citizen group that supports sensible planning and environmentally compatible development, opposes D’Amico’s proposed weapons compound on the shores of Tarboo Lake. They have formally objected to the County accepting D’Amico’s application. It remains to be seen whether the BOCC will enforce their moratorium ordinance and hand Mr. D’Amico’s paperwork back to him.

Diane Johnson, a TRC board member noted, “ TRC presented over 1200 petition signatures in support of the moratorium. Last week the Commissioners were all complaining that they seem to be losing the public’s trust. If they do the logical thing and enforce their own ordinance they might get some trust back. Otherwise public participation seems to mean nothing.”

The next BOCC meeting is Monday October 14 with public comment beginning at 9:00 AM. TRC encourages everyone to make their voices heard.

Hearing Continues October 24th

Thanks to all the TRC supporters who attended the long hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse Monday evening. The crowd was large and some did not get their turn to speak. A public continuance session has been scheduled for Wednesday October 24, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. in the McCurdy Pavilion located at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. We will be posting a report about Monday’s meeting next week, but for now we want to say a big thanks to all our supporters! Read The Port Townsend Leader’s coverage of the meeting here.

The TRC Responds to Draft Shooting Range Ordinance

The TRC submitted 12 changes to Jefferson County’s draft commercial shooting range ordinance. The effort thus far is a good start, but fails to meet the goals outlined in the Moratorium Ordinance. The draft ordinance needs to be strengthened to protect people, places, and property.

We propose twelve essential changes to the County’s draft ordinance:

  1.  No outdoor night shooting.
  2. Limit on number of firing points.
  3. No aircraft.
  4. No overnight accommodations.
  5. Environmental testing for copper.
  6. Environmental testing to establish pre-operation baseline.
  7. Consequences for permit violations.
  8. Improved permit procedures.
  9. Nuisances noise defined and prohibited.
  10. Whistleblower protection.
  11. Retention of existing no-shooting areas.
  12. Military and law enforcement certification.

These changes will strengthen environmental protection through soil and water testing, and improve safety through limits on the intensity of shooting. Our changes provide for more public involvement through notice and comment, will eliminate dangerous operational practices, and will reduce nuisance noise levels. Read the entire TRC response.

Draft ordinance encapsulated: what you need to know

Prepared by the Tarboo Ridge Coalition
8 September 2018

Background
The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) voted in December 2017 to declare a one-year moratorium on considering applications for commercial shooting facilities. The moratorium ordinance created a committee charged with developing draft legislation regulating commercial shooting ranges. The goal of this proposed ordinance was to protect the viability of gun ranges in the face of increasing population pressure with a focus on public safety, environmental protection, and compatible land use. The moratorium ordinance referenced recent legislation on the regulation of gun ranges from Kitsap County, which has withstood legal challenge, as a model.

The review committee consisted of County Prosecutor Phil Hunsucker, County staff from DCD, the Sheriff’s office, and Environmental Health, representatives of the Sportsman’s Club and the Point-No-Point Treaty Council, a citizen from each of the three legislative districts, and Joe D’Amico of Fort Discovery Inc. as a citizen-at-large. The committee met 15 times during the summer of 2018 and Mr. Hunsucker presented the draft ordinance, encapsulated in the bulleted points below, to the BoCC on August 27, 2018.

What the draft ordinance does
• It requires that the owner of a commercial shooting facility obtain an operating permit issued by the Department of Community Development (DCD). The permit requires a pre-operations inspection, an annual report, and an annual inspection, and enables inspections after reports of noncompliance.

• The application for an operating permit includes subsections with plans for facility design, safety, operations, environmental protection, and noise abatement. The application is to include professional evaluation and certification based on relevant Best Management Practices (BMPs) published by federal agencies, and range design and operations guidelines from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

What the draft ordinance does not do
Throughout the moratorium committee’s work, Mr. Hunsucker focused the legislation exclusively on public safety, with the explicit goal of producing an ordinance that would withstand legal challenge. As a result, the draft does not address several points that were directly addressed in the Kitsap County ordinance, or that have been raised by concerned citizens.

• It does not address environmental protection, other than the requirement for BMPs with respect to lead clean-up in the environmental plan. All other impacts on the environment are deferred to the possibility of a SEPA process during application review Specifically, there are no set-backs from shorelines as required by the Kitsap County ordinance. Setbacks are important for public safety and enjoyment of lakes for swimming, boating, and fishing.

• It makes commercial gun ranges available for “organizational training for members of the armed forces.” Thus, gun ranges in Jefferson County could be used for tactical training by military units, instead of being restricted to use by citizens and local law enforcement officers.

• It includes a provision that reads, “Full compliance with an operating permit creates a rebuttable presumption that the commercial shooting facility is not being operated as a nuisance.” This sentence appears to prevent nuisance noise complaints from citizens with PTSD or other special circumstances, which are allowable under state law—even though gun ranges are exempt from maximum decibel regulations.

• There are no limits on the number of shooters or intensity of shooting.

• It does not require operators to pay the costs of permit review—going so far as to explicitly require the county to pay for the cost of hiring an expert on gun-range design and safety to review applications.

• It does not address compatible land use with surrounding areas. All land-use implications are deferred to existing code requirements, which are not designed to deal with the unique impacts of gun ranges.

• It does not allow anonymous complaints of violations, exposing whistleblowers to potential harassment.

• Instead of being focused on the responsible and safe use of firearms by hunters and law enforcement officers, it allows exotic uses such as exploding targets and cowboy action shooting—a type of “running and gunning” contest.

Next steps
The BoCC will hold a public hearing on the draft ordinance on September 24, 2018, and will take written comment from the public from September 12th, 2018 until September 28th at 4:30pm. After that, the Board will deliberate and choose among several possible courses of action, including:

• Voting on the ordinance as currently drafted;

• Directing Mr. Hunsucker to add or delete specific provisions and voting on a revised ordinance;

• Extending the moratorium to allow further study and/or input on land-use implications from the Planning Commission.

Public hearing scheduled! Mark your calendars for September 24.

Hello TRC Supporters,

After weeks of meetings the moratorium committee has now submitted the draft Ordinance on Commercial Shooting Facilities, designed to guide the county on regulating gun ranges in the county. The TRC has concerns about the current draft and would like to educate our supporters about how they can have their voices heard.  We just learned that the evening for public comments is September 24.  Please mark your calendars.  More will be coming to you about our concerns and suggestions for those who, like us, want to keep gun ranges safe for residents, respectful of the environment and appropriate for a county that champions the best a rural area has to offer.

We were planning a number of public forums to answer questions but with the quickly approaching September 24 date we can only, thus far, suggest:

  • stop by our TRC table from 9:00 – 4:00 at the Quilcene Picnic and Parade this Saturday, September 8th where you can pick up information, buttons, yard signs, etc.

OR

  • join us on September 12 at 6:30 PM at the Laurel B. Johnson Community Center, 923 Hazel Point Road at the end of the Coyle where we will discuss the situation, take questions and outline ways you can have your voice heard about this critical issue.

It’s very important that we have tons of community input to influence the final version of this ordinance.   Stay tuned for a detailed account summarizing the ordinance and sharpen your pencils for the upcoming comment period.

***

Speaking of yard signs (see image above):

We’ve just received another shipment of TRC yard signs (and this time with our web address on them). Given that they tend to “disappear” we recommend people nail them into trees (if your trees are game) a little higher than is convenient to remove, or stake them on private property, ideally where there isn’t an easy pull-over.

If you’d like one (or more), send an email to info@tarbooridgecoalition.org and we’ll figure out where you can pick them up.  Again: would like to see tons of these signs around to remind the commissioners just how many people care deeply about this issue.

 

Reject training our military on privately owned gun ranges

Yesterday at the Board of County Commissioners meeting TRC board member Teri Hein warned against allowing military training at privately owned gun ranges. Read her remarks below:

Good Morning Commissioners:
The Commercial Shooting Range Review Committee (CSFRC) will soon forward their recommendations to you. We expect and hope the recommendations will be at least as thorough and enforceable as those in Kitsap County. If not, you can expect that all the adverse consequences of private, for profit shooting facilities that Kitsap County has avoided, will be transferred to Jefferson County.
If they can’t do it there–they’ll come here.

Kitsap County, with some caveats, prohibits a shooting range from being used to train units of any branch of the United States military. We think it does not go far enough, and that Jefferson County’s ordinance should outright prohibit any and all military training at private for profit commercial shooting facilities.

Military training should take place at military installations.

It was military training at Fort Discovery that resulted in the expanded use and the substantial increase in noise and other adverse issues that only abated with the cancellation of SSNW’s lease on the property. The unpermitted activity continued for over a decade not withstanding Jefferson County’s best efforts to bring the facility into compliance.

The military often cites national security for keeping their activity secret and excluding public access. Allowing military training at private facilities will remove or severely hamper local control and the ability to enforce the conditional use permit.

Thank you.

Luck in the Pot and Peace in the Feast

Just a sampling of the crowd at our August 5th Peace Feast.

The TRC Peace Feast, held at the site of Concerts in the Barn on Sunday, August 6th, was a living, breathing example of what we love most about Jefferson County: great people, great food, and a vision for what a thriving rural community can be.

The 150+ attendees, ranging in age from 6 months to 91 years, ate an enticing selection of salads, main dishes, and desserts along with Egg & I pork prepared by the masterful Doyle Yancy. We played croquet, badminton, and horseshoes, we rode the magical Legends of the Forest Carousel presented by TRC Board President Peter Newland, and—most important—we learned more about TRC’s mission and the threat that a proposed paramilitary training complex poses to the values that we as a community hold dear.

When the feasting was done, we gathered in the Festival’s 1900-vintage barn to hear Dmitri Iglitzin, Sarah Spaeth, Peter Bahls, and Peter Newland review the almost 20-year effort to restore the Tarboo Creek watershed, and the “fish, farms, forests, and families” vision that TRC and a host of private citizens and organizations are promoting for Jefferson County.

After a lovely concert by Mark Pearson and Ted Brancato, we gathered for a group photo, gathered empty food containers, connected one last time with friends and relatives, and signed in to TRC’s email list—ready to respond to new information about how to support the mission.

What a great day, and what a great community.

Thanks to:
• our hosts Leigh Hearon and Alan Iglitzin, owners of Concerts in the Barn, for welcoming us to the beautiful grounds;
• Mark and Ted for sharing their music;
• Pat and Fern Strobel and their friends James and Jacob, for organizing the parking;
• And the team who gathered at Old Tarboo Farm to make all those bouquets.

Scott Freeman, TRC Board Member

“Nobody lives there.” We disagree!

There are those that believe the area adjacent to Tarboo Lake is a good place for a paramilitary weapons training camp because “nobody lives there.” We beg to differ. An estimated 350 families live within a 3 mile radius of this proposed facility and, if it were to be approved, would listen 6 – 7 days a week to relentless gun fire and helicopters landing. It’s time for you to meet some of them.

First Up

Here’s a picture of Bob Richardson, his mother, oldest son and youngest daughter in 1974 at the house he built on his property off Eaglemount Road.

Bob Richardson: Sawyer, fiddle/keyboard player and caretaker for stray dogs, horses, kids and other humans. Distance from proposed facility: 2 miles

Bob grew up in the Bremerton area. His first camping trip when he was 11 was up the Dosewallips, a trip that forever sealed his love of our area. A conscientious objector of the Vietnam War, Bob worked as a social worker instead in LA County with drug addicts and alcoholics. When his service time was over he returned to live in Quilcene. The year was 1971 and he got his first job as a logger with Buck Mountain Logging.

Finding the property at Eaglemount was a dream come true: acreage, a winter creek, a big pond, half a million feet of standing timber and a sweet deal from the owner that allowed him a lease to own. He bought a sawmill and cut the timber for the house he lives in today. Bob learned early that to make a living in this area he needed to put together as many jobs as he could. He started a dog kennel, continued his work as a sawyer and made money as a musician. They paid off the property in 1993. He’s raised four children there – two were born upstairs in the house.

So how does one feel when after 44 years of living on and loving a piece of land someone comes along and wants to start a business that will thoroughly disrupt the lives of everyone in the area? Bob has a few things to say about that:

Here’s Bob again in 2018 still there, same house.

“It’s absurd to even consider for a second permitting this proposal.”

“It’s a moral issue. If we want to stop war we have to stop playing at war.”

“There are millions of places on the planet people can go to shoot guns and blow up cars. Why come here to a place known for its serenity and beauty and sense of community? If those aren’t good enough reasons to stop this facility from happening I don’t know what would be.”

“Don’t we have the right as community members and citizens to just say no to this?”

TRC couldn’t agree more with you, Bob.

 

– Teri Hein, TRC Board Member

Tarboo: The Little Creek that Could

If we ran a contest to create a motto for Tarboo Creek, I’d nominate a passage from Luke 4:24: “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Just seven and a half miles long from tip to tail; reduced to flows of a mere two cubic feet per second in the height of the mid-summer drought; ditched, drained, and degraded for decades. When you live and work in Jefferson County, it’s easy to forget just how special this little stream is.

In 2003, Peter Bahls and Jude Rubin of Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) in PortTownsend set Tarboo Creek on a course that has led it to national prominence. The work started with replacing failed culverts that were blocking salmon passage up the stream, under Center Road and through the Olympic Music Festival. In 2004 NWI partnered with our family to complete the first of what has turned out to be many re-meandering projects: bringing in excavators, dump trucks, and volunteers to pull the creek out of a series of deep ditches and into the sinuous meanders of a natural streamcourse.

In January of 2005, NWI organized the first of what have come to be annual plant-a-thons: all-day tree-planting parties powered by shovel-wielding schoolchildren and their parents. The kids sell plant-a-thon coupons as a fundraiser for their schools, pledging to plant a tree in commemoration of a loved one or life event. In return, the Tarboo Creek watershed gets trees: lots of them. That first year, about 125 volunteers planted 3000 trees and shrubs along our newly re-meandered stretch of stream. Thirteen years later, Jude’s tally is that over 1000 volunteers have planted over 30,000 trees on over 200 acres. Virtually the entire valley has now been reforested.

It’s the little stream that could: come back, host spawning salmon, inspire kids to care about the land around them, serve as a national model of community-based conservation, and yes, be a prophet in our own hometown.

For more information on the Tarboo Creek restoration project, see:

– Scott Freeman, TRC Board Member