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Tuesday, April 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Gun Club eyes potential new site on the West Plains

After selling its former 99-acre property to the Central Valley School District last year, the Spokane Gun Club’s future was uncertain.

But now, the gun club has found a 450-acre site on the West Plains and is requesting that Spokane County remove the land from its designation as a no-shooting area to build a new clubhouse, controlled shooting ranges as well as trap and skeet fields.

The site, west of Fairchild Air Force Base and bounded by McFarlane Road to the north and Thorpe Road to the south, has been designated a no-shooting area since 1993, which was established by Spokane County after a group of residents petitioned for it to protect the safety and welfare of surrounding properties.

The land is owned by Western Pacific Timber LLC with a sale to the Spokane Gun Club contingent upon consent to establish a gun range, which would need approval from the Spokane County Shooting Advisory Committee, Spokane County commissioners and the county’s hearing examiner through a conditional use permit.

Attorney William Lenz of Spokane-based law firm Witherspoon Kelley is representing the gun club in its application process with the county.

Lenz said the Spokane Gun Club’s former site in Spokane Valley was rural when it was established more than 70 years ago. Since then, housing development encroached on the site, making it less ideal for a shooting range.

“A club in which some of the shooting stations are adjacent to public roadways, or literally 20 feet from somebody’s back door is not exactly ideal and fitting for a purpose such as this,” he said at a Spokane County Shooting Advisory Committee meeting held Monday. “The new proposed location and its rural feel is much better suited for that.”

Spokane Gun Club officer Dave McCann said the organization intends to consider residents’ input and concerns when developing the proposed site on the West Plains.

“We want to make sure that we have a safe facility, one that’s a good neighbor and we want to make sure we have easy access with consideration for those who have been there a while,” he said.

The gun club discussed with Fairchild Air Force Base how to orient its shooting ranges to ensure safety. Because the area is in a buffer zone for Fairchild Air Force Base with flight operations occurring above and around the site, the club had to obtain permission from Fairchild for any plans, McCann said.

Fairchild was fully supportive with Jeff Johnson, director of the Fairchild Encroachment Management Team, writing a conditional letter of approval for the proposed project, McCann said.

He added that shooting would be contained to a 300-yard designated area within the site and efforts would be made to isolate noise with earthen berms surrounding the gun ranges. Any potential lead on the site would be mined and repurposed.

“Our hope is that you will come visit us, join the club and shoot with us,” McCann told residents at the county’s shooting advisory meeting. “We want you as participating neighbors. We’re not expecting to come in and just dictate how the club is going to be run, or what the hours will be without input from the folks around us.”

Lenz said the conditional use permitting process would address the operating hours and type of use for the site.

He said impact on neighbors would be minimal because of regulations. The no-shooting designation was put into place because of unregulated activity with people firing automatic weapons in residents’ yards.

“That, of course, is nothing like our use. Our presence of this property will ensure that we don’t have people like that, because we become liable for activities on our property,” he said. “We want to make sure our property is well-used, well-regulated and that we don’t have that sort of thing happening.”

Resident Sharon Whitehead owns property adjacent to the proposed site.

Whitehead said she was concerned about the gun club’s potential operating hours, which would appear to be eight hours a day on weekends.

“The environment isn’t really compatible to the use. This is a very rural environment, but it also has lots of homes around it,” she said. “It’s a whole different enchilada when you are talking about some flights from time to time, or a train from time to time, than when you are talking about eight solid hours of noise. All of us moved out there for a reason – to live in a rural setting.”

Resident Toby Willis, who lives near the site, was concerned not only about noise but also lead contamination and potential for fires.

He said Airway Heights is already being developed with many businesses and families moving to the area.

“My concern, basically, is the neighborhood around it and why (the no-shooting land designation) got changed in the first place,” he said. “I have no problem with guns. I have no problem with a gun range. I just think it’s too busy and I just don’t think it’s going to last very long in the same location. You would be better off finding a more rural area as opposed to what we have here.”

Lenz said the parcel of land, if approved, would allow for a controlled gun range, but the properties surrounding it would remain designated as a no-shooting area.

As of Monday afternoon, the Spokane County Shooting Advisory Board hadn’t decide whether the property would be removed from its no-shooting designation. If approved, the decision would be forwarded to county commissioners for consideration.

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