The insensitivity and caviler attitude of Kitsap County toward local business never ceases to amaze me. The latest examples of this are how the County Department of Community Development (DCD) and the Health District have essentially put Juel Lange of Lange’s Ranch out of business, and how the Prosecutor’s Office continues to pursue what has all the earmarks of a personal vendetta against Marcus Carter of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.
Lange and Carter have both been particularly annoying thorns in the side of County bureaucrats for more than a decade. Lange for seemingly understanding that it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission when it comes to dealing with the county’s arbitrary and overzealous enforcement of regulations, and Carter for beating county prosecutors in court three times on a alleged gun violation — and doing it without a lawyer, by representing himself.
Lange has run a popular summertime swimming pool and recreational facility for kids near Keyport for 35 years. It’s also available for private functions like weddings, family reunions, business retreats, and such. The money he makes supports veteran’s organizations.
Lange won’t be able to open this season after being a victim of what can only be called a classic flim-flam by county regulators.
He was forced to close in 2004, citing a wave of new regulations he didn’t believe he could comply with. He’s worked since then to comply with the ever-increasing regulatory burden, and believed after spending $30,000 on a new septic system he’d made it over the hump.
But of course he didn’t — and this is where the flim-flam comes in. Lange operated the facility before much of the current land-use law was written, so he was grandfathered and didn’t have to comply with what had been written after he was operating. However, when he closed due to the new regulations, and then wanted to reopen, his grandfather protection went away.
Lange now has to get a conditional-use permit to operate in an area now zoned for rural residential use. Hell will most likely freeze over before that’s approved. He’ll also have to get permits for portions of buildings he’s modified over the years — including a bathhouse expansion and a small theater he built — and bring them up to current code standards.
Meanwhile the Kitsap County Health District is requiring Lange to have a lifeguard at the pool, something he claims has never worked because parents would dump off their kids for long periods, with a lifeguard, while they always stayed and watched without one — and according to Lange, the kids behave better.
The Health District also required Lange to install a second pool drain to supposedly prevent sucking swimmers down the drain, or some such nonsense, while an alternative solution he proposed was not acceptable.
For generations, Lange’s Ranch, with its red geraniums everywhere, Bavarian-style snack shack, merry-go-round, chimes tower, giant chess set, and bubble machine, has been a huge summertime draw for children from all areas of the county. Part of the fun was llamas for kids to feed.
After all he’s invested in trying to comply with the myriad of regulations, county bureaucrats have finally cornered Lange so he has no alternative except sell the property. I guess it could have been worse, he could have tried to build a tree house for those kids.
Meanwhile, after wasting hundreds of thousands of tax dollars losing in court three times over a dozen years on the gun charge, the County has decided to turn the persecution of Marcus Carter over to King County. It will be interesting to learn how much Kitsap County taxpayers will be billed to finance this witchhunt.
The County is also attacking Carter on another front, proposing new regulations requiring all shooting ranges in the county’s unincorporated areas to have a permit to operate. This is a change from the current code, which requires only new shooting ranges apply for a permit.
County Commissioners reportedly requested the code change due to “...ongoing tensions surrounding shooting ranges in the community,” County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido was quoted as saying.
In my view, the proposed changes are little more than another way for the County to attack Carter, who owns and operates the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club. The similarities between complaints by surrounding residents — who moved in long after the club was established — and the proposed changes, were not lost on Carter, who was quoted as saying, “Obviously, it’s a political move.” Ya think?
Chalk up yet more victories for over-regulation — and more losses for small business — and personal freedom.