May 18, 1998

Front Page

Growth Management Board dismisses gravel pit appeal

Neighborhood group claims victory


by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor


   DUVALL--Want to fight city hall? Or county government? A persistent group of Valley residents could write the book on it. Their dedication to an effort to change a county property designation that would have made it easier for the landowner to develop a gravel mine has resulted in not just one, but two rulings in their favor.
  
   During public hearings, the group, known as the Novelty Neighbors, convinced the King County Council that it had erred when it gave the property a designation that reflected prior mining activity, which, group members said, never occurred. Novelty Neighbors, which had previously organized to fight a proposed development, reactivated two years ago when the Alberg family, which has owned the property for 42 years, filed a preapplication with DDES to grade the approximately 120 acres (six parcels). The preapplication indicated plans for a large gravel mine. Although the Alberg family once lived on the property, the house and land have been rented out for many years. The property lies east of SR-203 and about a mile south of NE 124th.
  
   According to King County Council Chair Louise Miller, mining sites are designated 1) Potential but never mined; 2) Not active but previously mined; and 3) Actively mined. She said mining receipts presented by the Albergs during the 1995 amendments to the Comp Plan convinced the County Council to designate the site as a Number 2, or Legal Non-Conforming (LNC) mineral extraction site. The site had been inadvertently left off of the the Comprehensive Plan Mineral Resources Map. But the Novelty Neighbors objected, claiming the site had never been commercially mined.
  
   "The people who had lived in the house on the site, and all those living nearby, said they never saw any mining, other than a load or two taken out of it," said Novelty Neighbors president Jim Eldridge. After the County Council changed the designation to a Number 1 status by a vote of 7-5 in November, the Alberg family appealed to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board.
  
   Last month, the Board dismissed the appeal, saying the authority to change the status remains with the Department of Developmental and Environmental Services (DDES). In the April 17 decision, the Hearings Board found that legal, non-conforming mineral use is determined by DDES through the application of County code provisions, and concluded that the presence or absence of an NLC notation on the mineral resource map "does not affect any individual property owner's rights," and removing the LNC notation does not affect the individual property rights.
  
   The Board also concluded the County's adoption of Amendment No. 6, which removed the LNC notation, did not affect the Albergs' property rights. "This is very good news for the Valley," Eldridge said. "Residents here didn't want another Cadman pit." Eldridge noted the victory was a "success story" for the small neighborhood group, which was concerned with the possible loss of the aquifer, environmental impacts and heavy truck traffic.
  
   "We expect a ruling next month from DDES," he said. "If the Albergs have no luck there, the next step would be to rezone it mineral, which is a long, drawn-out process. If they try to do that, we will make this a big, valley-wide issue. We are gearing up for that. It would be a huge, environmental issue."