Fort Discovery owner asks for public understanding

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 10/24/17

The latest public exchange on a proposed shooting range in Tarboo Valley drew an impassioned plea for understanding from the owner of an existing shooting range in Discovery Bay, as well as yet …

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Fort Discovery owner asks for public understanding

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The latest public exchange on a proposed shooting range in Tarboo Valley drew an impassioned plea for understanding from the owner of an existing shooting range in Discovery Bay, as well as yet another statement from a state legislator weighing in on the proposed range.

During the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners’ public comment period Oct. 23, Tarboo Valley resident Diane Johnson reported visiting the website for the Washington Sportsmen’s Association, on which she searched for the nearest public shooting ranges.

“Within 60 miles, there are 23 public gun ranges,” Johnson said. “Within 30 miles, there are about six or seven. And in the listing of public gun ranges, Fort Discovery was not one of them.”

Fort Discovery manufactures, sells and maintains firearms, while Security Services Northwest (SSNW) provides security and dispatch services, according to the company. Both businesses are operated by Joe D’Amico, and activities at the location where D’Amico currently operates those businesses, on Discovery Bay, have been controversial and resulted in complaints about noise over the past decade.

Johnson then cited an email that fellow Tarboo Valley resident Nancy Wyatt had received from state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, 24th District, which further clarified his previously expressed stance on the proposed shooting range in the area.

“A public gun range has been something needed for many years on the Olympic Peninsula,” Van De Wege wrote. “Without one, people have gone onto public and private land and essentially shot it up.”

In that email, Van De Wege argued that “the state has an interest in limiting [the] environmental damage” by unregulated shooters leaving behind garbage and lead, and destroying property, and “one way to do that is through a gun range the public can use that can handle all manner of weapons people choose to use.”

Van De Wege also confirmed that he had attended a meeting between D’Amico and Jefferson County officials regarding the gun range, and had expressed an interest “on behalf of the state to ensure the public can use the proposed facility in a low-cost way.”

In the email to Wyatt, Van De Wege elaborated that he sees the opening of a shooting range in Tarboo Valley as a way to reduce noise complaints about Fort Discovery from Gardiner-area residents.

“While this is a county issue, if there is a way to substantially decrease this noise, and provide a public shooting area, that is something I will support,” Van De Wege said. “However, this is a county decision. I will only work to ensure that, should it be permitted, the public can use the facility.”

CALL HIM ‘PRESIDENT’

D’Amico opened his remarks by noting that other members of the public who addressed the commissioners had been referred to by their titles – commission chair Kathleen Kler referred to Johnson as “Dr. Johnson” – so because he is the president of his corporation, he requested to be called “President D’Amico.”

“Security Services Northwest is essentially shut down,” D’Amico said. “We’re moving out to Tarboo, and we’re moving into Sequim. This is a big ordeal for my employees and family.”

D’Amico attributed at least a portion of the criticism that his businesses have received to the animosity certain people might feel toward him personally, as he reiterated that SSNW and Fort Discovery are two separate businesses.

“It’s about more than a shooting range,” D’Amico said. “My kids walked on the beach for the first time here. I’m a fourth-generation resident of this county, so I’m emotional about this move, but I’ll work out of a container if I have to.”

D’Amico again praised County Administrator Philip Morley for doing “a great job of a balancing act” in working with him, to which Morley responded in his own remarks, after public comment, by pointing out that his role has been advisory, rather than as an advocate.

“We provide guidance on what our processes are and how to proceed through them,” Morley said.

Tarboo Valley resident Teri Hein followed D’Amico’s remarks by saying she appreciated the reasons for his emotional response, but as someone who has owned a farm in the area for 15 years, “the idea of something as disruptive as a gun range where I live makes me emotional as well.”

Commissioner David Sullivan agreed that neighbor-to-neighbor disputes “can be emotional,” since they concern people’s homes and lives, but he agreed with Kler and Morley that the county’s evaluations, including those of the Department of Community Development, are based on its established rules. Morley added that the proposed shooting range in Tarboo Valley would eventually go before an independent hearing examiner.

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