Appeals filed by both sides in Milton-Freewater gun club standoff

Rachel Alexander, Walla Walla Union-BulletinMarch 1, 2014 

MILTON-FREEWATER -- A legal battle over the future of a Milton-Freewater gun club is headed to the Umatilla County commissioners.

Both the East End Rod & Gun Club and neighboring Rea family have filed appeals after the Umatilla County Planning Commission voted last month to allow the club to keep operating with a number of conditions attached.

The issue dates back to a land use application filed by the club last fall, which sought approval for its continued operation on 85 acres outside of Milton-Freewater. Though the club has been operating since 1994, it was never officially approved by the county.

The Rea family objected to the club's continued operations, citing noise and safety concerns and contending the club should not be allowed to operate in an area zoned for exclusive farm use.

Oregon passed a law in 1995 allowing any firearms training facility in existence on Sept. 9 of that year to continue operations, but the Reas and their attorney have argued that the club does not meet the legal definition of a training facility and should not be covered by that law. They restated that argument in their appeal, filed Feb. 17.

The gun club's appeal, filed Feb. 14, seeks to modify the conditions the planning commission imposed on its continued operations. The appeal asks for the removal of the requirement limiting club membership to 1,000 and an annual review by the county. It also asks the county commissioners to rephrase several requirements related to hours of operations and safety procedures.

The board will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. April 3 in the Umatilla County Justice Center hearing room. Public comments may be submitted to the Umatilla County Department of Land Use Planning, 216 S.E. Fourth St., Pendleton, OR 97801, or to Planning Director Tamra Mabbott at planning@co.umatilla.or.us.

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