Gun club faces fight no matter where it's built

Here’s a prediction: Wherever the developers of the proposed Olympic Sportsman’s Club eventually decide to locate their outdoor shooting range, it will be just as controversial as their first choice. Which would lead a skeptical observer to wonder whether the real nature of the objections has less to do with noise and environmental concerns than it does a general revulsion to the idea of guns and the people who own them.

Scott Edwards, lead developer for the project, announced last week the organization’s intentions to abandon its two-and-a-half-year quest to build the range on a 120-acre site just off Lake Flora Road near Bear Lake and start looking for a new location. Edwards’ stated reason for the change of plans was environmental questions, mainly involving wetlands, at the original site. But persistent battles with neighbors unhappy at the prospect of sharing their secluded neighborhood with a gun club clearly were a great help in his coming to that conclusion.

In October 2001, Edwards’ predecessor as the project’s developer originally announced plans to build on the Bear Lake site and Kitsap County commissioners at first approved the project, but later reversed that decision, leading to a long series of appeals that took the case before the county hearing examiner.

Last June, a Kitsap County Superior Court judge ruled the club did have the right to build, ending the appeals process. But by that time, developers had shifted the location of the gun range from one corner of the huge parcel to another farther away from nearby residental neighbors.

The new site, however, proved to have serious wetlands issues and Edwards ultimately decided to look elsewhere rather than reconfigure the project again. Since noise and other considerations require a site of at least 100 acres, the logical place to look is near Bremerton National Airport, and that’s what gun club officials are reportedly doing, but it remains to be seen whether opposition will follow.

The betting here is that it will. Officially, those who fought the prospect of building the gun club at Bear Lake say they’re not opposed to development in general or gun clubs in particular, just to the noise and safety considerations posed by the presence of one in their back yard.

But developers went to great lengths to mitigate those concerns and county planning officials, at least initially, were satisfied. Only later, after the development became a political hot potato, did the commissioners change their stance.

Assuming developers of the project do decide on an alternate site in Kitsap County, one that presumably addresses noise, safety and environmental issues better than the last one, it will be interesting to see on what grounds opponents will fight it next time around.

Bridge gets final OK

Would that opponents of the new Tacoma Nar-rows Bridge had been as successful at imposing their will as the landowners near the proposed gun club described above.

The state Supreme Court last week swatted down a final Hail Mary pass from bridge opponents who’d hoped to stop the project with a lawsuit. Considering construction had already begun on the $840 million structure before the appeal was even heard, the odds against the court halting the project were overwhelming anyway. Still, it was nice to hope.

The state of Washington, with the enthusiastic backing of 26th District Sen. Bob Oke and Rep. Pat Lantz, has finally succeeded in slapping a $3 admission charge on visitors to the Kitsap Peninsula while voting a $750-a-year pay cut for Kitsap-Pierce County commuters.

So much for economic growth — to say nothing of representative government.

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