MILTON-FREEWATER The East End Rod & Gun Club’s application to continue operations was approved by the Umatilla County Planning Commission Thursday night, but a number of restrictions were placed on its activities.
The Milton-Freewater club, which has about 800 members, has operated a shooting range since 1994 on 85 acres of leased property, but was never officially approved by the county.
The club initially filed a land use application last fall to expand onto addition land and receive official approval for their current operations, but later withdrew the request for an expansion because the land was no longer available.
Thursday night’s hearing was a continuation of a land-use hearing that began in December, after the neighboring Rea family filed an objection to the club’s application.
The Reas and their attorney, Patrick Gregg, cited concerns about noise and safety, and noted that the club has grown significantly since its 1994 beginnings. They argued that the club should not be allowed to operate in an area zoned for exclusive farm use.
Planning Commission members imposed a number of conditions on the club’s continued operations which were designed to address these concerns. Going forward, the club will be limited to six evening special events per year which will be capped at 30 participants.
An annual meeting to discuss any conflicts between the club and its neighbors was also mandated.
On the weekends, the commission said shooting should not begin before 9 a.m. instead of the current 8 a.m. opening time.
“Some of the restrictions will put a crimp on some of our normal activities,” said gun club president Verl Presnall, but he added the commission’s decision could have been a lot worse for the club.
Other conditions were designed to codify existing club policy. Doing so “gives assurance to the neighbors and club members” that the club will continue to operate under the same standards, said county planner Tamra Mabbott.
For instance, the commission mandated that the club continue to abide by National Rifle Association safety standards for ranges and required them to notify neighbors before special events.
Club membership will also be capped at 1,000 members, a limit Presnall expects to hit very soon.
The planning commission’s decision may be appealed to the county commission up to 21 days after the decision is finalized, which Mabbott said would occur next week.
Presnall said he had no plans to appeal.
Gregg declined to comment on the hearing or the possibility of appeal, saying he needed to speak with the Rea family first.
The commission had 107 exhibits submitted for the hearing, mostly letters of support from gun club members.
Mabbott said that number was unusually high for a planning commission hearing and indicated a large amount of interest in the issue.
Rachel Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-526-8363.