Friday, February 26, 2010

Bellevue's West Coast Armory Range

Recently there has been some anti-gunners protesting a new gun range in Bellevue.

So, as suggested by the good blogger at Insights, I emailed the people listed and told them that:

  1. This is my range and I support it.
  2. I use it to train to safely and effectively carry the gun I'm licensed (by the King County Sheriff BTW) to carry (such a name dropper I know).
  3. They are a lawful and legitimate business that should be supported, especially in a time like this.
A few days later I got a reply from the Land Use Directors. She forwarded me a word document with a management brief prepared for the City Council.

Here is the text of the reply:



February 24, 2010


Mayor Davidson and Members of the City Council


Carol Helland, Land Use Director 452-2724

Development Services Department


West Coast Armory

The Council has received several dozen e-mails regarding the newly established shooting range called West Coast Armory. Some of the e-mails have been from residents of the Woodridge neighborhood who expressed concern about the recent opening of the shooting range in the Richards Valley light industrial district. Other e-mails are from gun enthusiasts who expressed their appreciation for the new recreational opportunity that is now available to them in Bellevue. This memorandum describes the shooting range use, its location, the operational limitations placed on the use, and the permit process that allowed the range to be established.

Project Description: West Coast Armory (WCA) is an indoor shooting range with associated firearms training and incidental retail. This use is characterized as a “recreation activity” for the purpose of applying the Land Use Code, and falls in the same use category as bowling alleys and gymnasiums. This use was first characterized by Bellevue land use staff in the early-1990s when Wade’s Gun Shop and Shooting Range was established in the Bel-Red light industrial district. Retail sales are prohibited at the WCA location, because miscellaneous retail trade is not an allowed use in the light industrial district. Incidental retail (such ammunition, eye and ear protection for use at the range) is appropriate.

Location: 13216 SE 32nd Street. The shooting range is located on the access road to the Factoria Transfer Station. Please refer to the attached location and zoning maps. Uses located in the vicinity include a PSE service facility, warehousing, bulky building material sales, and other recreation activity uses (including gymnastics, dance, and martial arts instruction). There are limited infrastructure improvements in the area of WCA (no sidewalks or curbs); and like most light industrial districts in the City, the pedestrian environment is inhospitable. The streets in this area of Richards Valley are not part of an integrated transportation grid. As a result, access to this area is generally limited to individuals destined for one of the businesses located there.

There was a shooting range that used to be located on SE 30th Street. Weapons Safety Inc. was located at 13215 SE 30th Street (a short distance to the north of WCA), and operated at that location from 1994 to 2003. The West Coast Armory range seems to have replaced that use in Richards Valley after the prior range was abandoned. The WCA use likely came to the attention of residents living in the vicinity of Richards Valley

in late January when the owner employed a “sign handler” to stand on Richards Road and advertise the newly opened use. E-mails from Woodridge residents opposing the use began to arrive in the Council Office shortly thereafter. Support for WCA appears to have emerged more recently in response to leaflets being placed on cars in the Factoria area urging people to oppose the shooting range use and to contact the Bellevue City Council to voice their opposition.

Required Review: Recreation uses such as this shooting range are permitted outright in the light industrial land use district, and there are no applicable design guidelines in these districts. As a result, land use approvals including notice (such as an administrative conditional use permit or design review) are not required. The establishment of this use required a tenant improvement permit and a business license, which were both applied for and received prior to the business opening.

Operation: Like other recreation activity uses located in a light industrial land use district, WCA is restricted to incidental sales only. Miscellaneous retail sales are not permitted, and this restriction was included as a condition of the required tenant improvement permit. Other recreation activity uses provide illustrative examples of how incidental sales are conducted. For example, the gymnasium located in the Richards Valley light industrial area sells a limited supply of leotards to its students and members. But the leotards are available to the individuals who are otherwise already on the premises for a class or competition. The limited sale activity conducted at the gymnasium does not constitute a miscellaneous retail sales use, and is appropriately incidental to the recreation activity use.

With regard to the regulation of firearm purchase and sales specifically, the State of Washington, by enactment of RCW 9.41.290, has preempted the entire field of firearm regulations. Under RCW 9.41.290, cities may only enact ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law. State law authorizes cities to enact ordinances restricting the areas in their respective jurisdictions in which firearms may be sold, but cities may not treat a business selling firearms more restrictively than other retail businesses located within the same zone.

In response to the communications received by the Council Office, I conducted a site visit on February 2, 2010. The purpose of my visit was to confirm that the operation was being conducted consistent with the conditions placed on the tenant improvement permit. The owner is in the process of making changes to the lobby area of the premises in order to comply with the conditions of permit approval and ensure that retail firearms sales do not occur at the Bellevue WCA location, and that operations include only sales that are appropriately incidental to the shooting range recreation activity use as required by the permit. These corrections are being made through the temporary certificate of occupancy process and are required to be completed by no later than March 18, 2010.


  1. Aren't they selling firearms from this Factoria location? They were when I was there. From what I read above, they are not permitted to do this.

  2. Allowing indoor shooting at WCA is far safer than other alternatives, such as shooting at some gravel pit. Firearm sales should be allowed at the location. Bellevue is targeting all of the retail gun stores which is against state law.

  3. They do have sales there, but you have to be a member of the shooting club to buy. Not sure if this is enough to get around the "incidental" sales stuff...

  4. I spoke with them in detail on this. Bellevue allowed them to build the place as a Pro Shop to serve members. When the anti gunners threw a fit and complained the city re-defined the stipulations. They applied for the permit (I saw it and it clearly stated sales to members) and started building almost 1 year before the letter that is posted was written. That does not seem to be fair, but I guess it is typical for a government agency to do this.

  5. There was a gun range and shop in this very location a few years ago. I suspect these same complaining homeowners had no idea that this location is nothing really new, just re-opening a former facility.

    I hoped Bellevue/Redmond was different than the NIMBY crowd in Seattle, but I see that is not the case.

  6. I believe this is good strictly from the standpoint of giving shooters an alternative to Wade's here on the eastside.

  7. Per the letter from the Land use Director; it appears they have no right to oppose even outright sales here. Wade's is allowed outright sales and they are as stated in the letter: In a Light Industrial District. If the Bellevue Gun Club would be in Violation if they were selling to anyone off the street, than so too is Wade's. However, they are not selling to anyone off the street, Members only. This is a very well lit, cared and professionally run facility; compared to some other ranges I have been to. They are a huge plus to the area!