Facility application sparks concern

Lily Haight lhaight@ptleader.com
Posted 10/16/18

Fort Discovery Inc. submitted an application for a stormwater management permit to the Department of Community Development on Oct. 3, spurring worry among members of the public that the application …

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Facility application sparks concern

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Fort Discovery Inc. submitted an application for a stormwater management permit to the Department of Community Development on Oct. 3, spurring worry among members of the public that the application “disregards” the county’s current moratorium on shooting facilities. 

Members of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition expressed concern at the County Commissioners meeting Oct. 15 that Fort Discovery is going against the moratorium by submitting the application for the permit for a “private recreational and training facility with camping, lodging, gun, and archery ranges.”

The application is for a parcel of land near Tarboo Lake, which is owned by Fort Discovery Corp., and which president Joe D’Amico hopes to turn into a recreational shooting range called Cedar Hills Recreational Facility. The application is currently “pending,” according to the DCD’s website. 

The one-year moratorium, which the commissioners enacted on Dec. 18, 2017, means that no modifications can be made on existing or new commercial shooting facilities, and no new facilities can be established. 

Tarboo Ridge Coalition Board President Peter Newland and the TRC’s attorney Alex Sidles believe the application submitted by Fort Discovery on Oct. 3 defies the moratorium.

“I believe this application is barred by the moratorium ordinance, which forbids the ‘submission, acceptance, processing, or approval’ of permit applications for ‘any proposed use, development, proposal or project for the siting, construction, or modification of any commercial shooting facility,’” wrote Sidles in an Oct. 10 email to chief civil deputy prosecutor Philip Hunsucker. 

Patrick Sullivan, director of communications for D’Amico’s company, Security Services Northwest, supplied a statement from D’Amico on Oct. 15, which stated that Fort Discovery Inc. applied for a stormwater management permit, which the county requires as a step toward property development, but “no new permit for a commercial shooting facility has been filed.” 

According to the statement from D’Amico, there are several small buildings on the property near Tarboo Lake, some in pieces, and all up on blocks. They are hoping to preserve the structures for future use, and they need foundations, which require county permits. 

“I own property in Jefferson County, and I have a right to pull permits,” D’Amico stated.

The application submitted by Fort Discovery called the project a “private recreational and training facility.” In his email to Hunsucker, Sidles said the word “private” was used to “misconstrue” the identity of the facility as a “commercial shooting facility.”

“This facility is ‘private’ only in the sense that it is privately owned and selective about its customers, as opposed to being open to the public. But if the facility is charging money for its services, as this one clearly intends to, then it is a commercial shooting facility regardless of its ownership or customer base,” wrote Sidles. 

Six members of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition gave public comment during the commissioners meeting Oct. 15. 

TRC member Diane Johnson expressed her “dismay” at D’Amico’s “seemingly blatant disregard for the process set in place by your action in establishing the moratorium to restrict the accepting and processing of new applications for establishing gun ranges.”

Johnson, who lives in the Tarboo Valley, asked the commissioners to clarify why DCD accepted the application. 

“We learned late last week that DCD not only stamp dated it, but also intends to review it,” Johnson said. “Did someone indicate to (D’Amico) that it was OK to submit his application now? If so, why are you making an exception for Mr. D’Amico, and what does that mean?”

Commission Chair David Sullivan responded to Johnson’s concerns and said that the commissioners had not made any exceptions to the current moratorium.

County Administrator Philip Morley added that “no completeness determination has been made on the application that was submitted on Oct. 3, whether it was complete or incomplete.”

According to Morley, the moratorium pertains to the submission of applications and further processing for commercial shooting facilities, but that as far as he knew, the application submitted on Oct. 3 “was not for a commercial shooting facility.”

“The DCD had no choice but to at least accept it,” Morley said. “But now are reviewing it as to its completeness and whether it is indeed a non-commercial facility.”

According to Newland, who brought a printed-out version of a 145-page application along with him to the commissioners meeting on Oct. 15, it is “clear that this is an application for a commercial gun range. There can be no doubt about that.”

According to a technical memorandum submitted along with the application that summarizes the trip generation forecast and preliminary traffic analysis for the Cedar Hills Recreational Facility, the description of the development stated, “Fort Discovery facility, in Sequim, is proposing to relocate its operations to the proposed Cedar Hills Recreational Facility near Port Townsend. … The proposal is a small-scale recreation and public facility providing personal and public security education.”

On Oct. 4, Fort Discovery posted a video on its Facebook page showing trucks moving part of a building from the current Fort Discovery location in Sequim to the new location at Cedar Hills Recreational Facility. Along with the video, Fort Discovery wrote, “Tarboo or bust! Thanks to all those involved in making us whole again at Cedar Hills.” 

After members of the TRC spoke at the commissioners meeting on Oct. 15, all three county commissioners said they will look into the DCD application.

“I will be requesting a briefing from DCD,” said Commissioner Kate Dean. 

Commissioner Kathleen Kler echoed Dean’s comments, adding, “I’ve put an email in already to DCD asking for some more feedback and details since we don’t have the full picture.”

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