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.”