Loyd Miller lives on Whiteman Road not far from the development of Palmer Lake. About two years ago, he and his wife began hearing high-caliber shooting sounding like it was coming from the direction of that development. He called the county sheriff, who investigated and reported back to him that individuals were shooting into a backstopped area, and that they were within their rights, as this part of the Key Peninsula was not designated a “no shooting zone.” The only county ordinance on the books at the time prohibited shooting within 500 feet of a residence or building.

Miller, an active member of Citizens Against Crime, was determined to change the shooting status of the area around his home for safety’s sake, and, using a petition from another jurisdiction as a guide, he wrote a formal petition, whose purpose was to “prohibit the discharge of firearms in the area of Palmer Lake.” He arbitrarily selected roads on four sides as visible and known boundaries, and set about obtaining signatures. Altogether, he and Miriam Goad, a Palmer Lake resident and also CAC member, gathered 48 signatures from residents who felt the same as they did. Miller then called Pierce County Councilman Terry Lee, who told him to “send in what you’ve got” so he could look into the protocol for the petition’s passage.

At a public hearing on the petition in October 2005, before the newly created Pierce County Firearms Advisory Commission, public testimony involved concerns over shooting in the existing Palmer Lake development, and danger from stray shots to landowners, their families and guests. A letter from Pierce County Planning and Land Services Senior Planner Sean Gaffney, chair of Pierce County Firearms Advisory Commission, to Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney discusses testimony, and says “it became evident to the Commission that most concerns involved noise issues and ongoing contention between certain residents.”

The proposed boundary of the new no-shooting zone was greatly debated at the hearing, including the option of creating two zones — one a “no shoot” and the other a “shotgun only” zone in specific locations within the boundary area. Gaffney’s letter further states, “The motion was withdrawn and restated two more times. The final motion was made to restrict the Palmer Lake subdivision only to a ‘No Shoot’ zone. Motion passed with a vote of 5-0. A motion was made to exclude all (other) areas from the ‘No Shoot’ zone… No one knows why those properties were included and if desired they can be brought back for inclusion at another time.” Only Councilman Robert Brown voted against the motion because public testimony noted a problem in the area, and he did not believe the motion addressed the issue.

The petition was approved by the Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee of the Pierce County Council in late January of this year. It was “grandfathered-in from the 160-acre maximum for any single proposal” under new Ordinance No. 2004-72s, since the citizens’ petition was submitted prior to enactment of that document creating the Firearms Advisory Commission. According to Lee’s office, The Palmer Lake No Shooting ordinance (2006-131) is scheduled for a hearing by the full council at its March 13 meeting, after which, if passed as expected, it will go to Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg for signature and implementation.

In an interview, Lee said, “The hard work was done in the field by citizens of the Palmer Lake area.”

The ordinance is complaint-driven. “Pierce County is not proactive,” Lee said, “and enforcement is always an issue.” He said a new neighborhood patrol deputy, on board with the Peninsula detachment since early February, will be interacting with business owners and citizens to engage them in Pierce County Code ordinances affecting Key Peninsula communities.

Miller recently said that in the interim between beginning the petition process and today, he has noticed a cessation of large-caliber, rapid-fire weapons’ noise, although he does still hear gunfire from the Palmer Lake area.

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