The grand opening of a commercial gun range in southwest Lakebay was welcome news for enthusiasts but shocked a residential community that never saw it coming.
Pierce County Code Enforcement Officer Mark Luppino, accompanied by Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Seth Huber, performed a site inspection and posted an order to cease and desist the operation of a commercial gun range called The KP Compound at 1320 205th Avenue SW in Lakebay, the morning of Sept. 5. The move effectively shut down the self-described commercial gun range that stands practically no chance of operating legally at the single-family residential location, according to Pierce County.
The cease and desist order allows the property owner, Morgan Dayhoff, 14 days to appeal the order.
“The (subject) property was recently transferred to my company but the deed hasn’t hit the assessor’s site yet,” Dayhoff wrote in an email to KP News.
State records confirm Dayhoff is governor of Ella Industries, LLC dba EIN Development in Tacoma that specializes in business development and construction services, according to their website. She is also the registered agent of The KP Compound, LLC, according to an application filed online with the Washington Secretary of State Sept. 3.
“The KP Compound project is being run by the man I work with, a Veteran of the Army Rangers and current member of the National Guard. Since he has extensive experience and intentions to safely bring together the sometimes “outlaw” type gun community on the KP, it seemed like a good project to back. I’m not even a ‘gun person,’ just a logical person,” Dayhoff’s email continued, “His project made sense.”
According to code enforcement reports, the tenant living in the single-family residence on the subject property told enforcement officers she was very surprised to find a gun range operating on the property when she returned from a trip. She said she received no warning of the owner’s intentions for the rental property. She expressed concern for her own safety and told officers she moved her horses to another location to keep them safe from harm.
Printed flyers began appearing in various locations across the KP announcing the “Grand Opening of KP Compound” on Labor Day, Sept. 2, from 11 a.m. until dusk with prices of $9 per range visit or $7 for members.
Sheriff’s deputies noticed the flyer and emailed it to code enforcement Aug. 29 for clarification on whether the gun range is permissible at the advertised location. Code enforcement confirmed the use is not allowable at the site.
Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Wulick arrived at the subject property at approximately 1 p.m. Sept. 2 after numerous 911 callers reported considerable noise from gunfire in their rural residential area. Neighbors who learned of a commercial gun range opening in their neighborhood expressed outrage that such an operation could be possible without any notice or public comment.
Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young (D-Gig Harbor) weighed in through social media messages to community members saying his office had received reports about the gun range. He cited zoning regulations that prohibit this kind of activity per Pierce County Code 18A.26.020 Use Description Table. A gun range is an Amusement and Recreation Level 3 per Pierce County Code 18A.33.270 B that is not permitted in a Rural 10 zone.
“The only permitted use on the site is single family residential; not a gun range,” Young wrote. “Pierce County Planning has not received a permit application, nor could KP Compound establish a legal gun range at the subject property, which is located in a Rural 10 zone within the Key Peninsula Community Plan.”
County records indicate Luppino received a call Sept. 3 from a person identifying herself as Morgan Dayhoff and informed her a gun range use is prohibited on her property. Dayhoff told Luppino she had read the Pierce County regulations and that is why she was operating the gun range.
Luppino suggested she misread the code, after which Dayhoff asked for a written explanation of why she could not operate a gun range there.
The following day, Dayhoff emailed Luppino, apologizing and explaining that she had read the wrong code. Dayhoff wrote that she is changing her use to a private club and would apply for a land use permit as she intends to use the property for commercial purposes.
Luppino replied to Dayhoff’s email saying that a gun range is not permitted even if she changed it to a private club and that he would be issuing a notice to stop operating a gun range on her property. He suggested further questions should be directed to Pierce County Development Center so staff could assist her with questions she may have on how to establish a lawful gun range in Pierce County.
“It’s confusing how it could go this far,” Young told KP News, “but they seem to have believed that because the property wasn’t in the sheriff’s firearms restriction zone, which is not a land use code but an overlay that says, ‘You can’t shoot here,’ that a gun range was an appropriate use.”
“There is no ambiguity here,” Young said. “It is absolutely crystal clear, this use isn’t allowed here.” He acknowledged that KP Compound had obtained a state business license but that made no difference; it is a commercial operation and the land use code applies.
“The irony is that a lot of people would like to have a gun range out here somewhere. I’ve got one I live next to, not a big deal, I run by it every day,” Young said. “They observe hours, they have clear safety parameters set up.”