In the Spokane Gun Club’s latest attempt to turn a 451-acre parcel near Medical Lake into a shooting range, the Washington state Court of Appeals has ruled against the club, stating that the club’s intent to allow recreational vehicle parking on the property is prohibited in the rural zone.
The ruling sides with the Medical Lake Cemetery Association, which brought the legal dispute challenging the Gun Club’s land-use permit for the site at the northwest corner of Thorpe Road and Brooks Road, just north of the cemetery.
In the unpublished opinion, two of the three judges on the Division III appellate panel ruled that the proposed creation of parking spaces for visiting RVs and providing onsite restrooms is enough to fit the definition of an RV park, which is prohibited by zoning laws. The panel noted that the Gun Club still could apply for a land-use permit for a shooting range without the RV parking spots.
However, a designated RV area is central to the Spokane Club’s business model and to the culture of how such clubs operate, says Tom Nihoul, the club’s president.
The club, which was established in 1947, holds what are called “registered shoots,” where people come from across Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon for multiple-day events, he says. There are people who travel a circuit of registered shoots, he says.
“If you have 100 people coming into town, and they’re going to be around for four days. They need to stay someplace, and they’re not going to stay in hotel rooms,” he says.
Nihoul rejects the appellate court’s definition of what constitutes an RV park, contending that RV parks offer utilities and water hook-ups and a gray-water dumping area. The club is proposing a kitchen and restrooms within the clubhouse.
“They said that makes it an RV park … that’s way beyond the scale of what we’re at,” he says.
The club will convene in the coming weeks to determine its next steps, he says.
As previously reported by the Journal, in 2018, Central Valley School District purchased the club’s 99-acre gun-and-skeet range at 19615 E. Sprague for $8 million. A year later, the club purchased the 451-acres site for $920,000 from Oregon-based Western Pacific Timber LLC.
Plans to develop that land into a shooting range and clubhouse were halted by the initial lawsuit brought forth by the cemetery association that challenged the club’s conditional-use permit.
While the club dealt with the suit, it entered into an option to buy more than 160 acres of land on the West Plains. The proposed site is located at the southwest corner of Deno and Rambo roads, about 2 1/2 miles northeast of Fairchild Air Force Base.
Louis Huang, the club’s treasurer, says while that alternate plan is still in place, he’s unsure of how the club will proceed because it might run into the same RV issue.
"There needs to be some changes in the definitions of the laws before we can proceed," he says.
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