Northwest NEWS

August 17, 1998

Front Page

Board upholds county in Alberg gravel mine case

Future of property in hands of DDES

   by Lisa Allen
   Valley View Editor

   DUVALL--Novelty Neighbors, a group of residents who have been fighting a proposed gravel pit south of town, were encouraged again last month when the last of three appeals to the state Growth Management Board by the owners of the property was denied. The dismissal of the appeal means that the property owners will find it more difficult to get permits to mine the site.
   In the July 29 decision, the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board upheld a King County Council decision that changed the status of the site from Legal Non-Conforming (LNC) to Potential Mineral Resource Site.
   The site, consisting of 160 acres along SR-203 just south of NE 124th, is owned by the Alberg family of Seattle. After the property had been designated LNC in the 1995 Comp Plan amendments, owners Tom, Mike and Kay Alberg applied for a grading permit to develop the six-parcel property into a large-scale gravel mine.
   To achieve the LNC status, the Albergs brought receipts to the County Council, claiming the receipts were proof that the property had been previously mined.
   But when the neighborhood group was alerted to the grading permit, they objected, saying the site had never been mined.
   After two years of public hearings and studying the receipts, the County Council agreed with the Novelty Neighbors, changing the status to reflect the fact the property had never been mined.
   "The receipts the Albergs had did not show positive proof that the gravel came from that site," said Council Chair Louise Miller.
   The Albergs appealed to the Growth Management Hearings Board, and in an April 17 decision, the Board dismissed all but one of the issues.
   Previously the Board found that that LNC status is determined by the County's Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) through the application of County code provisions.
   The Board found that to receive LNC status, property owners must demonstrate to DDES that their property qualifies for LNC status and consequently, the presence or absence of a parcel's LNC status on the mineral resource map does not affect the individual property interests of the owner of that parcel.
   The Albergs asserted in the latest appeal that, at the time the County adopted the 1997 amendments, which held the change, the County did not have a public participation program in place as required by the state's Growth Management Act.
   But the board said the record "contradicts this assertion," finding that the County "provided numerous opportunites for public participation."
   In its denial of the Albergs' appeal, the Board stated that "just as other citizens participated in the public process initiated by the County to encourage the County to consider amending the mineral resource map, Alberg participated to persuade the County to refrain from amending the map."
   The case for LNC status has been in the hands of DDES for several months, causing frustration among Novelty Neighbors group members.
   Jim Eldridge, Novelty Neighbors president, said last week that DDES staff members had told him a decision would be made in May, then that was changed to July.
   "Now it's August and we still haven't heard," he said. "We are anxious to get some resolution on this."
   Eldridge said DDES seems to have no incentive to make a decision.
   "If they (DDES) reject Albergs' claim of LNC, they know the Albergs will appeal," he said. "And if they give the property an LNC status, they know that we will appeal."
   Eldridge noted the Albergs have said they are in no hurry.
   "But in the meantime, property owners trying to sell are having a tough time, since buyers know of the mining application," he said. "Novelty Neighbors are working on the real estate issue. We are accumulating data to demonstrate to DDES that their decision can indeed affect things."
   Eldridge said the Albergs have never demonstrated their case.
   "They raised seven different legal issues and have lost them all," he said. "We are frustrated by the inaction by DDES. I can't imagine the DDES would give them something out of all this. The legal support is there for the county to make a solid decision."
   The recent appeal was a consolidation of three separate petitions (Green Valley, et al., v. King County) for review challenging natural resource lands amendments to King County's comprehensive plan and development regulations.
   In the other petitions, regarding soccer fields in Woodinville planned for designated agricultural lands, the Board found that recreation fields were not appropriate uses for those properties.