Umatilla County commissioners hear appeals on gun club

From left to right, Sharline Johnson, Stacy Alexander-Fulgham, Jan Alexander, Cheryl Hess, and Sonia Seagraves shoot at a A Girl and a Gun Event at the East End Rod and Gun Club recently.

From left to right, Sharline Johnson, Stacy Alexander-Fulgham, Jan Alexander, Cheryl Hess, and Sonia Seagraves shoot at a A Girl and a Gun Event at the East End Rod and Gun Club recently. Bob Bloch

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PENDLETON — Umatilla County commissioners heard more than four hours of public testimony Tuesday but made no decision regarding the future of the East End Rod & Gun Club.

Commissioners were considering appeals on an application from the Milton-Freewater gun club to continue operations on an 85-acre range just outside the city limits.

The neighboring Rea family has objected to the club’s continued operations, citing noise and safety concerns, and questioning the club’s legal justification for their land use.

After the Umatilla County Planning Commission voted on Jan. 23 to allow the club to keep operating under several conditions, the Rea family appealed the decision to the county commission. The gun club also appealed, seeking to have some conditions about membership caps and review by the county modified or struck.

The club has been operating since 1994, but was never officially approved by the county. The legal arguments over its existence hinge on an Oregon law passed in 1995, which said any “firearms training facility” operating on Sept. 9 of that year could continue operations as long as the facility was still being used for firearms training.

The law says a firearms training facility is a facility providing training courses and issuing certifications for law enforcement personnel, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, or nationally recognized programs that promote shooting matches, target shooting and safety.

The Rea family has argued the club has not provided evidence that such certifications were issued on the club’s current property before Sept. 9, 1995. A number of people have submitted affidavits stating they received such certifications, but the Reas argued Tuesday that the club has yet to produce an actual license to substantiate those sworn statements.

Commissioners considered more than 400 pages of written exhibits, most from club members in support of the land use application. More than 50 people attended the hearing, including current gun club members and other neighboring landowners, who spoke about problems they’ve experienced with the gun club.

After hearing public testimony, commissioners closed the record and set a deliberation time of 10:30 a.m. on June 23 in Room 130 of the Umatilla County Courthouse in Pendleton. That meeting will be open to the public, but commissioners will not consider additional evidence or testimony before making a decision.

Rachel Alexander can be reached at 509-526-8363, rachelalexander@wwub.com or on Twitter.

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