Yes to Operating Permits!

Public Comment addressed to Jefferson County Board of Commissioners

by Peter Newland, TRC Board Member, on May 29, 2018

“I’m here this morning representing the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, a community group opposed to locating a paramilitary gun complex on the shores of Tarboo Lake. Over 200 of our supporters attended the moratorium hearing on new commercial shooting facilities and we are monitoring the committee’s progress.

The moratorium, in effect, acknowledges that the current regulatory system is broken. Relying solely on conditional use permits to regulate gun ranges has proven to be a time-consuming failure, and a great monetary burden on Jefferson County taxpayers. We need to learn from over a decade of adverse experience and require an operating permit in addition to any conditional use permit.

Why does TRC take this position?

Since 2005, despite numerous complaints and requests, the Fort Discovery range in Gardiner owned and operated by Security Services Northwest continuously violated the terms of its conditional use permit and disregarded County building codes. The facility was only quieted in 2017 when the ARK Group, SSNW’s landlord, terminated the lease and sought injunctive relief in Jefferson County Superior Court.

Twelve years is way too long to expect a disruptive force in the neighborhood to be brought into compliance or shut down.

Other jurisdictions have found part of the answer: it is called an “operating permit”. Operating permits spell out the design details of gun range construction and the operational rules. They require operators to annually demonstrate compliance. Operating permits allow government to quickly assess complaints and, if warranted, order a suspension of firing.

An operating permit is essential and definitely in the public interest. Applicants for an operating permit should be required to pass a rigorous FBI background check. The ordinance should define what circumstances would prevent the issuance of an operating permit. Part of that evaluation could include the previous compliance history of the applicant.

We urge that you specifically instruct the Commercial Shooting Facility Review Committee to include recommendations for operating permit terms and conditions in their written report to you that is due later this year.”




And what about those moratorium meetings?

People in this county breathed a sigh of relief when our commissioners declared a year-long moratorium on new gun range permits last December. It was the right time to consider what policies need to be in place when issuing permits.The current guidelines are not sufficient for the county to make responsible decisions around these sensitive issues, particularly with the changing weaponry and the growing population of our county.

The Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association (JCSA), operating on county property near Port Townsend since 1962, has an operating agreement with the county that is up for renewal in 2025. A pre-application has has been made by Clallam County resident Joe D’Amico for an extensive for-profit para-military style training facility on the shores of Tarboo Lake, a lake used for generations by families and fisherman alike. The Tarboo Ridge Coalition has been formed to stop this training facility from coming into existence, believing strongly that a camp of this nature is not appropriate in this location, if anywhere in Jefferson County.

The Review Committee on Commercial Shooting Facilities meetings occur every Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. at the courthouse and are open to the public. TRC makes sure there is at least one representative in the audience. (We would love company and happy to provide you with your own TRC button!)

Here is what we can report so far:

  • The TRC has representation on the Committee. After four meetings, it is clear that there are many competing interests. It remains to be seen if they will be able to come to any majority agreement.
  • The meetings are being taped and are available to the public on the Jefferson County website under AV Capture.
  • Our goal at TRC is to show that a paramilitary shooting facility at Tarboo Lake would be harmful to the environment and destroy the enjoyment of the lake by the Community for generations to come.
  • the new ordinance will be drafted by county employees, not the Committee, presumably reflecting the input of the Committee. Given the Committee is divided in so many ways, this will certainly be a challenge.

Please keep an eye on the Moratorium meetings. There is a great deal of work for the committee to accomplish in a short amount of time and we want to be ready to respond as needed when the draft ordinance is ready to go to the commissioners. This is about all of us in Jefferson County and how to create safe places for gun practice while preserving our peaceful, rural communities.


What have Joe D’Amico and his attorney been doing lately?

They’ve been busy.

Mr. Greg Overstreet has stated in multiple letters to individuals in our community that “Mr. D’Amico hired me as full-time, in-house counsel to, among other things, pursue defamation actions against people who knowingly misrepresent the truth about him and his business, especially to permitting authorities.” And: “Please have your attorney contact me within the next 10 days.”

Since becoming a full-time employee of Security Services Northwest, Inc. on September 25, 2017, Mr. Overstreet has filed:

  • Three claims of defamation mailed in letters to individuals in the community; and
  • Two “Claims for Damages” against Jefferson County totaling $101 million dollars–one claim for $100 million and another for $1 million. These include hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.


  • Why does Mr. D’Amico bring or threaten to bring so many claims and lawsuits?
  • Does this seem like the work of someone who supports the betterment of Jefferson County, given that for every dollar that the county must spend responding to Mr. D’Amico is money taken away from community needs?
  • Is Mr. D’Amico trying to get the taxpayers of Jefferson County to help make his payroll?

There are a lot of questions.

Stay tuned.

Sources for this post:

Advice to the TRC: “Stick to the Facts!”

Dmitri IglitzinThe TRC board is happy to announce that Dmitri Iglitzin, a partner attorney with Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt, LLP will be assisting us specifically in the area of libel/slander in our fight to stop the “Cedar Hills Recreational Facility” from happening.

The TRC Board was concerned that Security Services Northwest’s full-time, in-house legal counsel has been sending letters to individuals in the community, intimating that they may have “defamed” Joe D’Amico. It is important that we on the TRC Board are fully informed about libel/slander, and are grateful to Mr. Iglitzin for his advice and counsel at a recent workshop designed specifically for TRC board members. His advice includes such gems as:

“No matter how many threats a bully might want to make, if you just stick to the facts as you know them, there can’t be any legal pushback. And in a case like this, the facts alone, without any editorializing on your part, will be more than sufficient to lead the reader and/or audience to understand what is wrong with the proposal to plop seven gun ranges, a shooting house, cabins, a clubhouse and two helicopter landing zones into the middle of a forty-acre forest next to Tarboo Lake.”

Mr. Iglitzin’s practice is centered on campaign finance, union representation and defamation law advice and litigation. He received his B.A. from Yale University, 1983, magna cum laude, and his J.D. from the University of Michigan School of Law, 1986, magna cum laude. He was formerly a law clerk for Chief Judge Barbara Rothstein, United States District Court, Western District of Washington, and was an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law where he has taught labor law in recent years as an adjunct professor.

Meet TRC’s legal counsel, Alex A. Sidles, J.D.

After interviewing numerous attorneys, TRC has chosen Alex Sidles as the best person to represent us in our work to save our rural environment. His history in the military and knowledge of weaponry combined with his love of the outdoors makes him a compelling choice.

Alex is an Associate at Bricklin and Newman, a highly regarded firm in Seattle specializing in environmental and land use law. His work there focuses on preserving high-quality, beautiful spaces for people as well as wildlife. In his private life Alex is an avid open-water kayaker who has paddled from Washington to Alaska.

“People like the Tarboo Ridge Coalition are the reason I got into the law, says Alex. “I’m a big user of our state’s public lands, so I know how important it is to prevent a small number of bad actors from ruining the environment for the rest of us.”

Before joining Bricklin and Newman, Alex was a staff sergeant in the US Marines. He is a veteran of five combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Previously, he taught high school and elementary English for several years in the outer islands of Chuuk and Yap, Federated States of Micronesia. Alex earned his Juris Doctorate at the University of Washington School of Law. During law school he has clerked at the King County Public Defenders, Earthjustice, and the Washington Forest Law Center.

TRC looks forward to working with Alex for as long as it takes to secure our environment.

Kathleen Kler will not run again for County Commissioner

Kathleen Kler has announced that for personal reasons she will not run for another term as Jefferson County Commissioner. This is disappointing for the Tarboo Ridge Coalition as we have felt confident in her leadership as our representative in south county. We sincerely thank her for her work up to now and her continuing hard work for the rest of her term. We are confident that without the work of campaigning she will continue to guide the county in a way that maintains its integrity. —Teri Hein

Learn more from this March 14, 2018  article in the Port Townsend Leader.

Final action on moratorium: sensible planning proceeds

Today the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) gave final approval for the Moratorium Ordinance passed on December 18, 2017, as revised to allow noise testing. Now in place is a “moratorium of up to one year on permits to modify existing or establish new commercial shooting facilities in unincorporated Jefferson County… [during which time] Jefferson County will assess the impacts of existing and future commercial shooting facilities on public safety, the environment, and land use compatibility, and identify reasonable mitigating measures.” (source: Ordinance No. 05-1218-17; and BoCC Agenda Request dated February 20, 2018).

Thank you TRCers, for your part in supporting the Moratorium with your letters, appearances at public hearings, and petition signatures!

The BoCC will now turn to forming a nine-member Review Committee to be composed of: “ a resident or property owner from each of the three Commissioner Districts, a representative of tribal interests if they wish, one at-large County resident or property owner, a representative of each current commercial shooting facility, the Director of the Department of Community Development or designee, the County Sheriff or designee, and the Director of Environmental Health or designee…(and) a consultant to provide expertise and professional support to help the Review Committee and the County in their work to evaluate impacts, identify mitigation measures, and develop reasonable regulations to address them.”  Read more about the Jefferson County Moratorium Ordinance document here. And see the local news coverage about the public hearing that appeared in the PT Leader and the Peninsula Daily News—Robyn Johnson

Public hearing on the moratorium draws capacity crowd

A public hearing was held in the County Courthouse to hear citizen comments. It was standing-room-only in the hearing room, with TRC supporters in the strong majority, expressing overwhelming support for the moratorium. The 1200 signatures on the TRC petition were presented as part of the testimony. Read Kirk Boxleitner’s article in the PT Leader here and Diane Urbani de la Paz’s article in the Peninsula Daily News. —Robyn Johnson

Over 1200 petition signers say YES to the Jefferson County moratorium ordinance!

Together, we did it! Dedicated TRC volunteers collected 1,237 signatures from Jefferson County residents and property owners supporting the Moratorium. The initial goal for signatures was three hundred, but the final result far surpassed that goal! Residents were eager to sign for sensible planning for shooting ranges in the county. The petition also expressed a resounding NO to the proposed weapons complex at Tarboo Lake. —Robyn Johnson

Jefferson County commissioners vote to proceed with mediation between Fort Discovery, Inc. and the county

Jefferson Country’s mediation with Fort Discovery, Inc. means that mediation and the moratorium will proceed on parallel tracks. Everyone who supports TRC and the moratorium should still plan to attend the February 5 public hearing. The County wants our suggestions for reasonable rules to safeguard public safety and regulate commercial shooting facilities that might be built in the future.

The issue to be mediated is simple. Fort Discovery, Inc. claims the moratorium does not apply to it because they have had preliminary conversations with the Department of Community Development. They have submitted a pre-application. This is not the same as an application. Washington State Law is very clear on that point.

The County asserts both in the county ordinance and in follow up discussions with Fort Discovery, Inc. that the moratorium absolutely applies to Fort Discovery, Inc. because they had no application filed prior to the moratorium effective date.  Other than causing us some angst we do not believe TRC’s position has been or will be weakened. If it turns out otherwise, we will use every available means to defend our position that a for-profit commercial shooting and weapons training facility at Tarboo Lake is inappropriate and harmful to the economic well-being of Jefferson County.

The mediator is legally mandated to be fair, ethical, and neutral during negotiations, and to hear both sides without prejudice before weighing in with his/her opinion. The County has made it clear that any agreement made during mediation is non-binding, is subject to public input, and must be approved by the County commissioners. —Peter Newland