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County cool to gun club idea

While the Kitsap County Department of Community Development has not given the final word on a Gig Harbor gun club’s plan to locate near the Bremerton National Airport, at least one official said the project is grounded for now and he doubts it will ever be cleared for takeoff.

Planner Jeff Smith, who recently evaluated the pre-application submitted in January by the Olympic Sportsman’s Club to build a rifle and skeet facility inside the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA), said staff members do not now — and will likely never — support building a gun club on the proposed 160-acre site bordering the airport.

Smith said his department was taking the safety concerns and general incompatibility issues raised by the Port of Bremerton and the Washington State Department of Transportation very seriously.

Last month, the Port of Bremerton signed a resolution opposing the gun club moving to the site, claiming it was both a distraction hazard for the airport and incompatible with the overall vision for SKIA, designated as a manufacturing and business center.

Quoting the resolution, Fred Salisbury, the port’s director of airport and industrial operations, said the proposed gun club would not only be dangerously close to the airport’s safety buffer zone, but that the business’s employment potential was not compatible with SKIA, designated as a Kitsap County Urban Growth Area.

For the gun club to receive the support of his department, Smith said the project’s master plan would have to be approved by both the port and the WSDOT.

“Both (those agencies) need to sign off on it,” he said. “It is essentially a public facility, and we don’t want to impact the operation of the facility.”

Smith said the “ball is now in the (club’s) court” to adjust its master plan and try to gain the needed approval, but he said at this point he believed that was unlikely to happen.

“We’ll never say never, because we might, based on what they present in the future, support it later on. But I don’t see the port agreeing to it,” Smith said.

Salisbury confirmed Smith’s assessment, saying he believed the project as a whole was fundamentally incompatible with both the airport and the SKIA Sub-Area plan.

While the lead developer of the project, Scott Edwards, was not available for comment, fellow developer Rick Newman said his company has not given up on the site and is “plowing forward.”

“It is very early on in the process,” said Newman, vice-president of J. Scott Homes, the company facilitating the land purchase for Olympic Sportsman’s Club. “We received some comments back from the port, and they have some objections.”

Newman said while some of the port’s concerns were valid, he did not believe a gun club locating to the area was completely out of the question.

“We feel it is a viable use for that particular site,” he continued, and “we’re trying to come up with some alternatives.”

Newman said his company is currently preparing a wetland review on the land, and said he thought his company will have a response to the objections prepared by the end of the month.

“We’re really trying to work with everybody as best we can,” he said. “We’re trying to do it right, and in a professional manner (in the hopes that) it will be a nice amenity to the area.”

Newman said the gun club will be a “high-class” operation that will not be “a bunch of guys shooting at tin cans. It will be a facility worth several-million dollars.”

Newman said the gun club is looking to move out of its location in Gig Harbor because the city “is looking to have them move because it has been getting a lot of complaints.

“Nobody wants a gun club next door to them,” he said. “(The agencies) have any number of possible reasons for wanting us not to be there, and some of them are possibly legitimate. And some of them aren’t.”

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