Future of Lange's Ranch in limbo

The owner of Lange’s Ranch Park, Juel Lange, stands amid the animals of the merry-go-round at his lodge, northeast of Silverdale, in Keyport. Lange said he’s not sure he can stay open after being hit with so many “groundless” county code violations. - Photo by Kelly Everett
The owner of Lange’s Ranch Park, Juel Lange, stands amid the animals of the merry-go-round at his lodge, northeast of Silverdale, in Keyport. Lange said he’s not sure he can stay open after being hit with so many “groundless” county code violations.
— image credit: Photo by Kelly Everett

Juel Lange said he’s not sure what will happen to his “ranch” — essentially an old-fashioned lodge — north of Silverdale.

The 30-year-old Lange’s Ranch Park — located in a mostly residential neighborhood — was grandfathered-in under an old county “unclassified use permit,” said Kelly Robinson, manager of land-use permitting for the county. Recently, Lange applied to the Washington state Liquor Board for a wine and beer permit. The application drew the attention of county agencies such as the Department of Community Development (DCD), hearing examiner, and health district.

Before Lange knew it, routine inspections found him “out-of-compliance” on a number of things.

Potentially costly things, said Lange.

“It opened a real can of worms.... Now I’m in a quandary,” he said, “as to what to do with this place.”

Lange said county-mandated improvements may cost more than he earns from the facility. And “If I close it down to make improvements, I may not be able to reopen under the old permit.”

Robinson admitted “It’s a difficult situation. I wish we had (county) zoning codes (today) to handle such an activity.”

The sequence of events:

l Lange applied for a liquor license (for the second time in a decade) and was turned down, again, about two months ago, because his facility had no “restaurant” as such, only a snack bar. Area codes don’t even allow a restaurant in that part of Keyport, off South Keyport Road.

l However, people have been legally drinking alcoholic beverages at the ranch for years, under an old “banquet” permit, which allows those who rent out the facility for weddings and parties to supply their own liquor.

l County inspectors found Lange had constructed buildings without permits, said Robinson. The county is working with Lange to post-permit the new structures.

l Health officials found his septic system out of compliance.

“It’s been working fine, always,” said Lange, who said he didn’t understand the problem.

l The county ordered Lange to install a commercial fire-alarm system and upgrade water flow from his hydrant. Lange argues he has a pool on the property which is equal to a 34,000-gallon “reservoir” for fire fighting.

l The county also had problems with the lack of a permit for a “Home Theater.” Lange explains it’s just a room downstairs where he shows clients their wedding slides.

Lange said that he and a few maintenance workers are the only ones keeping the place up. He said the facility could use a little paint and sprucing, but insisted it’s in good repair and “Everything works. If it doesn’t work, it’s junk.”

He said “The county’s gone wild. They tell me I’m out-of-compliance... then don’t tell me what to do about it.” He said it was the county that encouraged him to apply for a liquor license. He fears upgrades may cost up to $10,000 or more.

He said the ranch also suffers from competition with low-cost or free Navy facilities in the area, and the nationwide recession, as well as the general rise in cost of everything. He’s had to pass some of these costs along to customers.

“High permit costs and county delays and nit-picking regulations” are counterproductive, he said. “People all over are building garages and buildings without permits — and I don’t blame them.”

Lange also owns the nearby 20-unit Continental Inn motel, which has been converted to apartments. The ranch includes a banquet hall “pavilion” for weddings, parties, conferences and Navy functions; a pool with dressing rooms; merry-go-round and “giant checker and chess” boards for kids; snack bar; outdoor barbecue; 29-seat theater; music piped-in over a public address system; ping pong, volley ball, horseshoes and trails; camp sites; nearby beaches; and a cottage and ranch house that can be rented out.

Lange recently replaced chipped tiles on the pool and plans to install a new diving board. Recently built dressing rooms give pool-users a place to change, he said. If codes allowed, “I’d like to open a restaurant here.”

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