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Sinkhole restoration project is the subject of complaints, but little evidence of problems

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

DirtPhoto by Briana Gerdeman. A project to fill in a sinkhole on Hollywood Hill has garnered complaints from neighbors about noise, traffic and erosion, but police and regulatory agencies say the contractor isn’t violating any rules or regulations.Some citizens have more complaints about the project to fill in a sinkhole on Hollywood Hill, but police and regulatory departments say there have been few complaints and no violations.

The land, which sits between 152nd Place NE and NE 173rd Street and is owned by the Mounterra Homeowners Association, was a gravel mine decades ago, said John Babbitt, owner of TTI Construction, the general contractor for the project. In the early 80s, the mine was used as a garbage dump, but gradually, the garbage decomposed. After an earthquake in 2001, the whole site dropped about 38 feet, Babbitt said.

The Mounterra Homeowners Association, which represents eight homes on NE 173rd Street, hired Babbitt to restore the site for two reasons. Two homeowners had lost parts of their backyards, which meant they lost property value, and they were concerned about safety and liability on the unstable land.

"We had two houses that were in peril of sinking with the land," Phyllis Dunmire, a member of the Mounterra Homeowners Association, said.

But some nearby residents outside of the Mounterra neighborhood are bothered by what they describe as the side effects of the restoration project.

Bruce Mercer is concerned about runoff from the site hurting salmon in Woodin Creek. He mentioned that he has to wash his cars constantly and will have to replace his windshield from the gravel and dirt on the road.

"I have a classic car that I show frequently, and arrive at the shows with a dirty car," he said. "The truck drivers drive too fast, pull out in front of you, and are rude!"

Mary Freal, who lives across the street from Mounterra, said she hears the trucks bringing dirt before and after the scheduled work hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends.

"I can’t walk my dogs on the street because they continue working until 8:00 at night," she said.

Dirt and gravel from the trucks is damaging the roads, according to Freal, and she’s also concerned that runoff from the site is entering Woodin Creek.

"The biggest concern I have is that nobody’s supervising," Art Saulness, Freal’s husband, said.

But Babbitt said TTI Construction is in compliance with regulations for erosion, traffic, work hours and slope.

"King County monitored the site, and we’re in compliance," he said. "King County has a lot of eyes on this project, and I’m under their microscope."

He noted that he is a CESCL (certified erosion and sediment control lead) specialist, and he uses sediment ponds, straw and other materials to control erosion and make sure no water is discharged from the work site. There are no drainage complaints for the work site or for any of the homes in the subdivision since the project began, according to King County geographic data.

Steve Peer, a representative for KGM, the contractor for the SR 520 bridge project, said that neither KGM nor the Washington State Department of Transportation have received any complaints about the excavation or hauling of materials.

Woodinville Police Chief Sydney Jackson noted that the project is in unincorporated King County, so Woodinville Police can monitor the roads leading to the site, but the site is not within their jurisdiction. (A representative from the King County Sheriff’s Office said she couldn’t look up complaints without an address for the site, which it doesn’t have.)

Jackson said there has been one chronic complainer about the project, but police haven’t written any tickets for the trucks. "They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing during regular work hours," Jackson said.

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