Commissioner proposes the possibility of another 'no shoot' zone in response to neighbor's complaint

Citizen Review staff

Port Angeles, WA - 3/13/03- “I would suggest having your petitioners give some specific language on an ordinance,” said Clallam County Commissioner, Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, at the March, 11 public meeting of the Board of Commissioners. He was referring to a possible "no shoot zone" for an area near Sequim, where several neighbors are disgruntled about target shooting in the area.

Tharinger was speaking to Richard Keithley, of Sequim, who filed complaints about a landowner’s skeet shooting activities. The letter and petition, signed by 19 people, was first submitted during public input time, at the February 25 meeting of the Board, complaining about neighbor Douglas Rhodefer’s hobby.

Both appearances by Keithley were not slated on the agenda. At his March 11 appearance, Keithley was given time for comments, suggestions, discussion, and a presentation was given by several county employees.

Keithley stated that he had contacted the secretary the previous day (March 10) to see what had been done about the matter. He said he had submitted the letter on February 25 and talked to Dan Englebretsen and Bob Martin. “I am awaiting your answer,” said Keithley.

The morning’s agenda was adopted at the beginning of the meeting, after the question was asked by Tharinger to Dan Englebretsen. “Dan are there modifications to the agenda?”. “I have none,” said Englebretsen.

“Dan, you’ve been working on this issue?” asked Tharinger. “Yes, as a result of the petition that came before the county that we received, I received another letter on the same issue---I referred this matter to both the Department of Community Development (DCD) and the sheriff’s department to look at it to see if there were any violations occurring. I also sent a response back to all the petitioners. I hope they all got it with the addresses that they had that indicated we at least were looking at it and what the possibilities of the outcome may be,” said Englebretsen. “I have received a response back from DCD.--- Bob (Martin) is here. As well as this morning I received a response back from Captain Snover of the sheriff’s department. Both of these folks are here and might want to comment on what they’ve found on the investigation,” said Englebretsen.

Department of Community Development (DCD) Director Bob Martin was invited to give a report on his department’s investigation into the matter. He stated that they had checked on the situation and determined that there were no land use violations. There was an old structure with no utilities, he reported. No violations with sewage etc. “No enforcement action required, " he said.

"A Nuisance Ordinance doesn‘t appear to cover this type of issue,” said Martin. He said that they had put it in a file to re-inspect later.

Sheriff Deputy Capt. Steve Snover presented a report about what they had done in response to the complaints. Snover stated that they sent out a deputy on three occasions to the property, where the shooting had taken place to see if there were any criminal violations. He stated that shooting was being done in a safe manner. Snover said that the current ordinances don’t cover daylight shooting on private property and the landowner was adamant about his rights to shoot on his property. The Sheriff’s department representative did not know what other solutions were available---possibly a no shooting zone process, he offered.

Keithley continued in the discussion after he left the speaker's rostrum and was seated again in the front row. “I want shooting to be allowed in the county. Not some guy with spite to another neighbor and creating a nuisance,” he said.

He complained that someone was shooting trap 30-40 yards from a neighbor. on lot #1 of Bear Creek Estates.

Tharinger said, “there is no clear path...” He mentioned the past discussion about Bell Hill “no shoot” zone as a nuisance or annoyance.

“Loudness and duration is the problem,” said Keithley.

“The question is not clear,” said Tharinger. He went on about ordinances in place north of highway 101 shotgun only for hunting South of Bell Hill he said and Happy Valley. Then he went into discussion about Cassidy Creek and comments about shotgun only.

“What would you do?” asked Keithley.

“Probably come in to see my elected officials,” answered Tharinger. He continued with, “I would suggest having your petitioners give some specific language on an ordinance.” He discussed the time element and what might be. “enforceable”.

Keithley suggested that trap skeet or high powered rifles should require a permit from the sheriff’s office and then with 3 or more complaints---shut it down.

Snover said, “We are prepared to enforce the laws” and then mentioned that there is a question of constitutionality.

Tharinger suggested duration such as 15-20 minutes as acceptable.

Snover said, “We could certainly use a law to get people to cooperate.”

Commissioner, Mike Chapman R-Port Angeles said, “We are a long way from getting a law like that.” He brought up the matter of the Constitutional rights of the people.

Long after he had left the speakers’ rostrum and his presentation was over, Keithley was given more time for discussion. “There are civil remedies available for this but the cost would be $30,000 at a minimum,” he said.

Tharinger brought up the situation of the Cassidy Creek and reminded the listeners that the debate on that had been going on for a long time.

“Several people want to form a vigilante committee,” said Keithley. He then noted, “we hear generators running during the week.” He said that they were not getting a straight story.

“How much in back taxes does he [Rhodefer] owe?” asked Keithley.

Dan Englebretsen, County Administrator answered; “he doesn’t owe any back taxes,” stating that they had checked on this matter.

At one point the petitioner was asked if he had talked to the landowner about this matter and he admitted that he had not.

Tharinger summed up that part of the discussion by saying, “taking a look at the nuisance ordinance would be the thing to do.”

Lois Krafsky-Perry of Sequim went to the speaker’s rostrum and said that she was a neighbor to Keithley. She said that she did not know the person that they were complaining about and recommended that Keithley talk to his neighbor and settle it in that manner rather than including other neighbors. Legal shooting in the rural neighborhood did not bother her. “I like our Constitutional right to own firearms,” she said. Perry reminded the commissioners that they would need to consider the NRA (National Rifle Association) and GOA (Gun Owners of America) if they plan to continue with the situation.


Following is the account from the local daily, Peninsula Daily News

Neighbors aim at Carlsborg skeet shoots - Clallam officials say no laws are being violated

By Jeff Chew

Peninsula Daily News

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Carlsborg---To some, it’s a noise issue.

To others, it’s a gun rights issue.

To Clallam County law enforcement authorities, it’s a non-issue without an enforceable ordinance.

For now, a group of Senz Road neighbors near Carlsborg can only complain about a neighbor’s prolonged skeet shooting.

“To me, it’s a noise issue,” said Richard Keithley, of 420 Senz Road.

Keithley was complaining about neighbor Douglas Rhodefer’s shotgun shooting in Bear Creek Estates.

Keithley and 19 others in the neighborhood have signed a complaint filed with Clallam County commissioners.

They complained that on February, 9,12, 17 and 23, Rhodefer and others conducted skeet shooting sessions lasting an average of about 21/2 hours each from morning to afternoon.

“When you consider both the disruptions resulting from the loudness and repetition of Mr. Rhodefer’s shooting party, I believe it’s understandable that those of us who live nearby would be upset,” Keithley wrote in his complaint to county commissioners.

Rhodefer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Keithley reported a horse nearly trampled its owner when startled by gunfire. He also said that dogs were scared and neighbors went without rest.

Following up on complaint

Keithley appeared before commissioners Tuesday, to follow up on complaints.

But he left knowing that law enforcement can do little without commissioner intervention.

Bob Martin, community development director, and sheriff’s Capt. Steve Snover told commissioners they found no violations of county ordinances after investigators looked into the complaint.

“The sheriff’s office was called on three occasions and sent deputies to the scene in each case,” Snover reported. “In each case, the shooting was found to be in a safe manner with no violations of criminal law or the noise ordinance.”

Martin said the county’s nuisance ordinance. “is not covered with this kind of issue.”

Snover said deputies talked to Rhodefer, “and he was adamant about his rights.”

Keithley said new residents were moving to the neighborhood, and one will be building a house about 40 yards from Rhodefer’s property this summer.

“I want shooting to be allowed,” Keithley said. “I just don’t want somebody out of spite for a neighbor to just be blasting away for two to three hours at a time.

Commissioner review

County Commissioner Steve Tharinger D-Dungeness, said the county could consider adjusting ordinances to meet the neighbor’s needs, but Commissioner Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles, warned that legislating a no-shoot zone would be time consuming and require a lengthy public process.

“Such a hearing would fill a room this size three times,” Chapman said.

Lois Krafsky-Perry, who lives north of the Senz Road neighborhood, said she is one neighbor, who is not offended br Rhodefer.

She suggested that any hearing on curtailing or limiting shooting have present representatives from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.

Keithley said Tuesday he was going to further discuss the matter with his neighbors to determine how to proceed.

Years ago, a no-shoot zone was established around the growing neighborhoods of Bell Hill and Happy Valley, near Sequim.

Shooting has also been an issue in Cassidy Creek neighborhood south of Carlsborg.


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