Man fined for constructing dirt berm in Monroe

A man who hosted marksmanship classes on his property near Monroe owes Snohomish County thousands of dollars in fines over an illegal berm, a hearing examiner has ruled.

The $6,000 penalty against Jim Faire stems from dirt he piled up at his property on Ben Howard Road. The 14-foot-wide, 30-foot-long berm served as a bullet backstop.

Code-enforcement officials fined Faire in June, but he appealed at a Sept. 17 hearing. Under Hearing Examiner Barbara Dykes’ decision, released Friday, the fine will grow by $3,000 daily until Faire gets the necessary permits.

Permitting delays could stretch up to a month, meaning the total fine could approach $90,000, Faire contends.

“They’re just vindictive and malicious and trying to do as much damage as they can,” he said. “I think the county has operated in bad faith. I tried to reach a resolution with this and effect a cure. They’ve tried to make it difficult in every single instance they could.”

The county executive’s office has told planners to expedite the permitting process to avoid the unnecessary accrual of fines, county spokesman Christopher Schwarzen said.

County deputies and code-enforcement officers began eyeing the property in December after neighbors complained about large groups of people gathering there to shoot guns.

Code-enforcement officials said Faire was allowed to shoot privately and closed the original file in March. In April, county officials reopened the file after learning about a Web site advertising monthly marksmanship classes at the property. Participants paid $50 to enroll in Appleseed shoots for one day or $80 for two days.

The events were affiliated with the Morehead, Ky.-based Revolutionary War Veterans Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes firearms training and the War of Independence.

Entry fees collected for Appleseed shoots only covered costs, Faire said. In the county’s eyes, the key issue was that money changed hands, not the lack of profit.

Separately, the range caught the attention of federal authorities. In court papers filed in May, an FBI agent said Faire’s range was known as the “Militia Training Center.” The FBI described it as being frequented by members of anti-government groups. The papers were filed in support of federal weapons charges against a felon with a history of anti- government activism.

Faire said the “Militia Training Center” name was an inside joke.

Faire said he hasn’t fired a shot on his property since June. Since then, he has reached an agreement with the county not to host any more Appleseed shoots.

The hearing examiner ruled that Faire should not be fined over the gun-range issue. She also found that the county failed to prove another allegation, that Faire allowed illegal development on a rural shoreline. Faire said he will petition for a reconsideration of the fines.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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