A bull's eye for shooting range plan - But, with no money, it's no closer to being built


Skagit Valley Herald

Skagit Valley, WA - The county commissioners put the Frailey Mountain Shooting Range back on track Tuesday, overruling the county's hearing examiner on a point of law.

However, the decision does not mean the shooting range is any closer to being built. Neighbors could appeal the decision in court, and even if they don't, no money has been allocated to build the long-debated shooting range.

The commissioners decided that vesting rights apply to the county, not just to individuals and private corporations. The hearing examiner had ruled that governments can't get vesting rights.

Vested rights are issued to developers after a proposal is made but before a development is built, typically at the date a permit is issued. The vesting date is important because it determines what regulations apply. Changes made to zoning or building codes after a project has been vested don't apply to that project.

Efforts to create a shooting range in Skagit County date to the mid-1980s.

In 1997, the county's Parks Department proposed the gun range at the Frailey Mountain site on Lake Cavanaugh Road, about three miles from Lake Cavanaugh. The Parks Department's plan includes areas for archery, trapshooting, muzzleloaders, pistols and high-powered rifles, plus campgrounds.

When the department's proposal was made, zoning on the land allowed a gun range.

Following appeals about Skagit County's Comprehensive Plan and the state Growth Management Act, the state forced the county to change the zoning on the shooting range site in 2000. In September, the hearing examiner ruled the current zoning must be followed.

But the county commissioners decided Tuesday that the county can have vested rights, and that the shooting range proposal was vested before the zoning change.

Even so, the county is still several steps away from getting its shooting range.

The county commissioners' decision to uphold the original zoning allows the shooting range, but only with a special-use permit, which must be obtained from the hearing examiner. And that could be put on hold if the neighbors appeal to Superior Court.

Once the permits are in order, the county must still find money to build the range.

The total cost of the facility is unknown. Just the bridge over Pilchuck Creek - a necessary part of the driveway to the range - is estimated to cost $720,000 to $960,000.

Local hunters and sport shooters formed an organization called the Skagit Sportsmen and Training Association, which has been promoting the shooting range and would take over operation of the range if it is built.

Lake Cavanaugh residents opposed to the proposed gun range formed Citizens to Save Pilchuck Creek, named for the Stillaguamish River tributary that forms the northern border of the proposed gun range.

Although Lake Cavanaugh is about three miles away, there are homes on Lake Cavanaugh Road just a mile and a half from the proposed range, said Jack Cross, a member of Citizens to Save Pilchuck Creek.

James Geluso can be reached at 360-416-2146 or by e-mail at jgeluso@skagit valleyherald.com.


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