No-shoot zone vote delayed

The wait is not yet over for residents of Bear Lake and May Ranch who have been trying since last fall to get a no-shooting zone established around their neighborhoods.

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners opted Monday to postpone making a final decision on the zone request, choosing instead to await further information on the topography of the area and how it might impact stray gunfire.

The commission was particularly interested in a 200-foot-tall ridge which more or less bisects the part of the proposed no-shooting zone west of May Ranch. The commissioners, apparently eager to address the needs of the neighborhood while preserving the largest possible portion of land for hunters and gun enthusiasts, surmised that the ridge could serve as a natural buffer for poorly shot bullets.

The boundary lines the council originally proposed set the western edge of the zone some 300-plus feet west of the ridge at an existing property line.

“I think there are some good reasons for altering the boundary,” said Commis-sioner Chris Endresen.

A petition, signed by 47 May Ranch/ Bear Lake residents, requested a no-shooting zone significantly larger than the county’s proposed zone.

The zone would have extended from Wye Lake to the south to Lake Flora Road to the north and formed a two-square-mile rectangle. The county’s proposed zone essentially connects the no-shooting zones surrounding Bear Lake and Fairview Lake, squaring the zone off at Lake Flora Road.

The county’s boundaries only take in May Ranch because, as was argued by many who spoke at Monday’s commission meeting, the no-shooting zone already in effect around Bear Lake takes in all Bear Lake residential properties.

By county law, all major bodies of water must have a 1,500-foot no-shooting perimeter.

The county’s abbreviated no-shooting zone, however, still found opponents. More than 90 percent of the dozen or so people who spoke Monday were against the idea of any no-shooting zone being established. Many felt the May Ranch/Bear Lake residents were pushing the proposed zone out of a need to control their neighbors’ activities, rather than out of fear for their safety.

“Most of the people petitioning for this no-shooting area already live within a no-shooting zone,” said Dave Tipton, president of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club and one of many gun club members who spoke. “If they’re living around the lake, they’re well-covered.”

Tipton said the issues many May Ranch/Bear Lake residents had previously brought up concerning stray bullets striking pets and guns being pointed at area hikers was solely a law enforcement issue. He also said he doubted the truth behind many of the residents’ claims, claiming the petitioners had ulterior motives pointing to a large gun club slated for the area.

“I don’t see where safety problems arise — I just don’t see it,” Tipton said.

Others echoed Tipton’s views, most referencing the proposed Olympic Sportsman’s Club, which could be imperiled if the no-shooting zone went through.

Kitsap County code prohibits any shooting — including that done in regulated gun clubs — within no-shooting zones.

Mark Cooper, a member of the review committee that drafted the original shooting ordinance the proposed zone would amend, scoffed at residents’ claims that gunfire would frighten away area wildlife. He said when he tries to use his neighborhood rifle range, he frequently has to kick out deer that have wandered into the complex looking for food.

Cooper said the focus should be safety, but also said safe shooting is primarily done in a controlled environment, such as a gun club or target range.

“We need safe places to shoot in this county because people are going to shoot anyway,” he said.

Phil Canter, developer for Olympic Sportsman’s Club, took a moderate view of the issue.

He said he felt the county’s proposed boundaries, with the topographically based modifications, made sense. Canter did, however, point out what he felt was an obvious connection between the proposed gun club and the neighborhoods’ sudden interest in gun safety.

“I would just like to remind the commission that we have a safety ordinance that’s being used to influence land use and zoning decisions,” he said.

Only one resident from the area in question spoke at the meeting,

Deanna Pearson, who lives in nearby Alpine Lake, pointed out the residents’ legal right to petition for a no-shooting zone should safety become an issue. She said residents had no doubt there was the potential for someone to be seriously injured under the rules currently in effect around May Ranch. Pearson denied any implication the residents were trying to curtail anyone’s gun rights with their no-shooting zone request.

She also rebuffed notions current rules, particularly those prohibiting any shooting in the direction of a home or occupied building, were sufficient.

“People have rights with their guns,” Pearson said. “But if you’re walking in the woods and you can’t see a home because of the environment that’s there, (you) could shoot towards our homes and not know it. We feel the need to have some safe boundary lines.”

Endresen supported the residents’ concerns about safety, and expressed distaste for several speakers’ insistence on proof residents’ lives were actually endangered by stray bullets.

“I truly believe no one thinks we can wait until someone gets harmed before we take action,” she said.

Commissioner Tim Botkin also supported the revised zone, but said he was also in favor of revising the rules by which shooting-permissible and no-shooting zones were established. Botkin said he thought all areas near homes should be off-limits to shooting unless it was proved guns could be discharged safely there.

“I don’t like the process we have,” Botkin said. “I think it’s backward. I think we should have a default (no-shooting zone) and petition the other way.”

Commissioner Jan Angel, who represents the South Kitsap area, didn’t like either of the county’s proposals.

She said she couldn’t support any no-shooting zone in the area, for many of the same reasons brought up by other zone opponents.

“We already have no-shooting zones established here, and I don’t see any evidence that safety is endangered by the current ordinance.”

The zone, with its proposed changes, is scheduled for a vote at the May 6 commission meeting.

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