Coalition calls for on-site inspection

Lily Haight lhaight@ptleader.com
Posted 11/20/18

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition filed formal complaints Nov. 16 with the Jefferson County Department of Community Development, the state Department of Ecology and the state Department of Natural Resources …

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Coalition calls for on-site inspection

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The Tarboo Ridge Coalition filed formal complaints Nov. 16 with the Jefferson County Department of Community Development, the state Department of Ecology and the state Department of Natural Resources contending that Fort Discovery Inc. has started work on its proposed 40-acre Cedar Hills Recreational Facility without any of the required permits.

The three complaints claimed Fort Discovery had violated clearing and grading codes, stormwater discharge regulations and forest practices rules.

Members of the TRC presented their findings in person to the county commissioners during the Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 19, asking the county to conduct an on-site inspection of Cedar Hills Recreational Facility.

The proposed facility is located on a piece of property near Tarboo Lake in Quilcene, owned by Joe D’Amico, president of Fort Discovery. 

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition is a group of residents from Quilcene, many of whom live within a mile of the proposed shooting facility, who have been vocal throughout the county’s process to create an ordinance on commercial shooting facilities. 

“We have been monitoring Fort Discovery’s activities at Tarboo Lake,” TRC board president Peter Newland said at the meeting Nov. 19. “Work has begun on what appears to be the first of three proposed 50-yard ranges. Various structures have been distributed across the property with at least seven major areas of disturbance and the very high probability that drainage courses have been redirected and wetlands filled.” 

The TRC has been “monitoring” Cedar Hills Recreational Facility with drones, and it has been conducting regular flights of the area since March.

D’Amico said in October that drones had been witnessed at Cedar Hills. 

“Drone activity has been witnessed over our property,” D’Amico said last month. “We believe the drone was launched from a boat,” D’Amico said.

On Oct. 4, a post on the Cedar Hills Recreational Facility Facebook page wrote, “Opposition group uses drone to spy on Cedar Hills! I guess we will need to fight fire with fire … I wonder how many illegal structures we will find ... I would be careful we know everything!”

At the commissioners meeting Nov. 19, biologist Peter Bahls, who is the executive director of the Northwest Watershed Institute, gave his interpretation of photos taken from the drones of Cedar Hills. 

“The Tarboo Ridge Coalition asked me to review high-resolution aerial photographs of the Fort Discovery property taken from March 2018 through Nov. 11, 2018,” Bahls said. “In my professional opinion, the photos clearly indicate that a significant amount of clearing and grading has recently been done on the property and that wetlands have been filled. However, a field inspection is needed to verify these conclusions.” 

Currently, there is a moratorium on any development of commercial shooting facilities. The moratorium is set to expire Dec. 17.

On Oct. 3, Fort Discovery filed a stormwater permit application with Department of Community Development, but the application has not yet been approved and is listed on the DCD website as pending. Fort Discovery also tried to submit a foundation permit application with the DCD, but because of the moratorium, it was told to wait to submit the application, spurring Fort Discovery to sue the county.

Before the moratorium expires, the county planning commission is deliberating on changes to Title 18 land use code in regard to commercial shooting facilities. After their deliberations, the planning commission will make recommendations to the county commissioners, who will vote on any changes. 

“We are at a juncture where this body’s rule-making authority is being challenged,” Newland said. “The TRC believes it is incumbent on Jefferson County to vigorously demonstrate that even those who threaten you or make you fearful are not above the law.”

Newland followed his statement by asking the county commissioners to direct staff to “perform a swift, thorough investigation” of the Cedar Hills Recreational Facility.

“We’re looking into it and trying to get additional information to follow up,” County Administrator Philip Morley said.

TRC member Diane Johnson also spoke at the commissioners meeting and asked the county keep the TRC “informed of its actions and the timing of its on-site inspections.”

The Leader requested a statement from D’Amico on the claims but did not hear back before deadline.

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