County shoots down gun club

By a 2-1 vote at Monday’s Kitsap County Board of Commissioners meeting, the commissioners voted to overturn the Hearing Examiner’s earlier ruling on the zoning compatibility of the Olympic Sportsman’s Club.

Although the county’s director of community development had previously decided the $3 million complex could not be built on the proposed site — currently zoned interim rural forest — the hearing examiner disagreed. After hearing the gun club developer’s appeal of the county decision, the examiner ruled the club was eligible for a conditional-use permit.

This latest county decision came following an appeal of the examiner’s decision, filed on behalf of those living in the Bear Lake and May Ranch neighborhoods, which border the proposed development site.

The 20-acre club is proposed to have trap and skeet shooting, a 50-meter pistol range, a 200-meter rifle range, an RV park and a clubhouse with classrooms. The rest of the 120-acre property was intended to be left as open space in order to minimize injury risk and dampen noise.

Commissioners Chris Endresen and Tim Botkin both felt the zoning code did not support the gun club proposal, although Botkin expressed concerns over the often non-specific way the code was written. He said he was also bothered that the code decision came on the heels of the decision to set up a no-shooting zone around the May Ranch area.

The combination of the two decisions, Botkin said, likely gave people the impression that shooting of any kind was not welcome in Kitsap County.

“In the context of the things we’ve been discussing, it’s an uncomfortable situation,” he said.

Botkin’s hope is that the zoning regulations can be re-written to avoid these types of conflicts in the future. He was especially imperative about the need to separate recreational uses which would draw a lot of traffic from those better suited to rural uses. Currently, Botkin said, there are no specific recreational use definitions in the code.

Commissioner Jan Angel, who supported the hearing examiner’s ruling and opposed the commission position, expressed concern the rejection would effectively shoot down the gun club plans.

“At this point, (the project) is down the tubes,” Angel said. “Whether they will test (our decision) in court remains to be seen.”

If the gun club’s developer, Phil Canter, wishes to have the commission overruled, he must appeal their decision in the state Circuit Court of Appeals.

Canter was not available for comment.

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