Last night at the Kitsap County Commissioners regular meeting board chairman Robert Gelder apologized for how things went down at the board’s April 9 meeting.
I wasn’t at the meeting, but a review of the tape shows that a number of supporters of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club attended the meeting to speak out during the board’s allotted public comment period. People were upset with the county for not inviting the KRRC to a meeting at the end of March that dealt with a proposed update to a shooting range ordinance. The ordinance would impact the county’s existing ranges by requiring them to apply for an operational permit and dictating their hours of operation, among other regulations.
Apparently as people continued to line up to speak, Gelder announced no more public comment would be taken on the rifle range. He then adjourned the meeting. The scene was tense and it appears one woman was in the process of testifying when the meeting ended.
On Monday Gelder apologized for how he handled the situation.
“I want to extend to Mrs. Cooper, who was making comments at the time, an apology for potentially cutting you off and handling that poorly,” Gelder said.
The board wants to provide a forum for the public to talk to commissioners and that didn’t happen April 9, Gelder said. While the public comment period is not a time for commissioners to interact with the audience, it is still a time when the public can be heard.
Gelder wants the communication to remain respectful — from both directions, he said.
“I am sorry that I did not show you that respect at that time,” Gelder said to Mrs. Cooper. (I don’t know whether she was in the audience of roughly 80 people at Monday’s meeting).
Contrary to some opinions, commissioners are committed to seeing KRRC reopen and come into compliance under the county’s land-use code, the board said Monday. Gelder tried to convey that message following Monday’s public comment, where people blamed the commissioners for the lawsuit against the club saying it appeared the county had a vendetta against the facility and wouldn’t be happy until it was closed for good.
“Overall it’s really about moving forward and that’s what I would like to emphasize,” Gelder said. “I look forward to us being able to move forward in a constructive manner so KRRC can open and be available to the public.”
Commissioner Josh Brown also commented about his reaction at the April 9 meeting, saying he was upset with a comment suggesting the commissioners only sold the club its land in 2009 so it could shut it down. He called the allegation ludicrous.
“I know a lot of you are frustrated. I appreciate that, I am frustrated too,” Brown said. “I really believe in my heart that we need to have shooting ranges that are safe and open for people to use in our community.”
Brown said the shooting range ordinance update the county is working on will allow the county’s existing gun ranges to continue operation in the future, while taking into account the concerns of the surrounding neighborhoods that have built up around the ranges.
“I really believe we’re going to have a good document that the community can be proud of that’s going to balance these competing interests,” he said.