Fort Discovery in permit process for new range

Posted 7/3/19

Joe D’Amico is operating his Quilcene gun range as a private facility while he works with Jefferson County zoning staff to gain permission to operate a commercial shooting range.

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Fort Discovery in permit process for new range


Joe D’Amico is operating his Quilcene gun range as a private facility while he works with Jefferson County zoning staff to gain permission to operate a commercial shooting range.

D’Amico’s company, Fort Discovery, Inc. is in the midst of the permitting process for the gun range near Tarboo Lake, said Patty Charnas, the county’s Director of Community Development.

In May, the state Department of Ecology determined that Fort Discovery had cleared and graded wetlands not covered by his permit.

The Jefferson County Department of Community Development also found that Fort Discovery had violated several county code regulations, including the removal, excavation, grading, or dredging of material of any kind within a regulated wetland, the dumping or discharging of any material or placement of any fill in a regulated wetland or its buffer, and modification of and activities within regulated wetland buffers. DCD also determined that a stormwater permit needed to be filed and that there were three buildings on the property for which D’Amico had not obtained permits.

“We proceeded to give that property owner (Joe D’Amico) a path forward of what needed to be addressed and how,” Charnas said. “Since that time, that property owner and his representatives have indicated to the county that they will work on their permit application.”

Efforts to reach D’Amico for comment were unsuccessful.

While Fort Discovery works to complete the permit application, the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, a group of Jefferson County residents opposed to the new shooting range, has filed a complaint with the Board of County Commissioners and DCD stating that Fort Discovery has “built a 50-yard pistol range without a permit, or lead recovery plan, or safety plan or operating permit.”

“No engineering drawings have been submitted to the County or reviewed by the County’s gun range consultant,” stated the coalition in a letter to the Board of County Commissioners. “There are no proper backstops, side barriers, baffles, fencing, warning signs or dedicated emergency phone.”

Photos taken during DCD’s site visit to D’Amico’s property near Tarboo Lake show a rifle range with a berm in the background. But as far as DCD knows, this range is private, not commercial. The commercial shooting ordinance, which was passed by commissioners last November, only regulates commercial ranges, not private ones, said Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Philip Hunsucker.

State law preempts cities, towns and counties from regulating firearms within the state when it comes to registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms.

However, state law allows counties to enact laws and ordinances restricting the discharge of firearms in any portion of their respective jurisdictions where there is a reasonable likelihood that humans, domestic animals, or property will be jeopardized.

This is what allowed the county to create “no shooting areas,” but it does not apply to private property.

Fort Discovery’s property near Tarboo Lake borders Pope Resources timberlands. The TRC is concerned that stray bullets may travel onto Pope land, where citizens are free to walk, hike and bike through the forest.

“This is dangerous, and illegal, and the county has a paramount duty to protect the health and safety of its citizens,” said Peter Newland, board president of the TRC. “We are urging our commissioners to direct their staff to issue a stop work order and shut this illegal activity down.”

State law does allow action to be taken if a person “willfully discharges any firearm, air gun, or other weapon, or throws any deadly missile in a public place, or in any place where any person might be endangered thereby.” This is something that the Sheriff’s Office would have to be able to prove, said Hunsucker.

Sheriff Joe Nole said if the Sheriff’s Office receives complaints about unsafe shooting, they will investigate.

“We might not be doing as good of a job at that as we used to,” he said. “A lot of the time, we get a call and don’t know exactly where the shooting is coming from. But if we get a call, we will go and make sure people are shooting safely.”

If they aren’t, the Sheriff’s Office can issue a ticket for reckless endangerment. But there has not been an increase in calls in the Tarboo Lake area, he said.

“No calls have recently been made to the Sheriff’s Office that are specific to the Tarboo Lake area proposed shooting facility,” he said. “I have had a few people casually mention to me in public that they have occasionally heard loud booms in the Quilcene area, but no complaints have been called in to the Sheriff’s Office and no one has said they are specifically coming from the proposed Tarboo Lake area shooting facility. There are also two gravel pits in the Quilcene area that sometimes do blasting.”

The Leader reached out to Joe D’Amico and Cedar Hills representatives to learn more about the shooting range and when it might be fully operational, but did not hear back by deadline.

On May 31, a post on the Cedar Hills Facebook page stated, “Great meeting with Jefferson County today! Another step closer to opening Cedar Hills!”


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