Commissioners: Code prohibits rifle ranges

June 20, 2002

By Christopher Dunagan
Bremerton Sun Staff

A gun range is not allowed because of how two county commissioners interpret the zoning code.

Supporters of a proposed rifle range in South Kitsap will not be allowed to submit an application to develop the project.

In a 2-1 vote, the Kitsap County commissioners ruled that the proposed shooting range near Alpine Lake is prohibited under the local zoning, which is "interim rural forest."

The rejection brought a quick reaction from Phil Canter, project manager for Olympic Sportsmen's Club. He said his group will sue to invalidate that section of the county's zoning code as well as a separate ordinance creating no-shooting areas.

"They have just said they will not allow ranges anywhere in Kitsap County," Canter said following the hearing.

Most people agreed the zoning code is confusing. It states clearly in one section that private recreational facilities are not allowed at all in the interim rural forest zone. Yet, in another section, it says facilities for recreational vehicles could be given a permit if associated with a "public park or private recreational facilities."

To comply with that language, Olympic Sportsmen's Club proposed a combination shooting range/RV park.

County commissioners Chris Endresen and Tim Botkin agreed with the interpretation of county Planning Director Bruce Freeland, who said it makes no sense that RV parks and shooting ranges would be allowed together if they're not allowed separately.

The commissioners overturned the ruling of Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Stephen Causseaux, who said the zoning code should be interpreted as written, since he could find no "legislative history" suggesting mistakes were made.

County Commissioner Jan Angel said she could find no grounds to disagree with the hearing examiner.

But Endresen, who was in office when the code was drafted in 1998, called upon her memory, notes and "boxes of records" to relate the meaning of the code. She admits the language was drafted hastily under time constraints laid down by the Central Puget Sound Growth Hearings Board.

Because of the confusion, the hearing examiner should have given more deference to the planning director's interpretation, Endresen said. She said she could find no other examples where something would not be allowed unless the applicant makes it a "more intense use."

"It is absurd to believe that an otherwise prohibited use would be allowed by just adding two RV spaces," she said.

Botkin, who was leaning toward the hearing examiner's interpretation two weeks ago, sided with Endresen, noting that the term "recreational facilities" is not even defined.

Last month, in an identical vote, the commissioners approved a no-shooting area between Alpine Lake and Fairview Lake, including the May Ranch subdivision. But the no-shooting area does not include the 120 acres proposed for the gun range, so Olympic Sportsmen's Club faced only the permitting hurdle.

If allowed to submit an application, the club would have faced a series of conditions before construction.

According to county planner Kelly Robinson, the code allows gun ranges in some zones, such as "rural protection," "rural residential" and "urban reserve" even if "interim rural forest" is off-limits.

Published in The Sun: 06/18/2002


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]